The nursing profession is experiencing enormous growth due to a rapidly aging population and changes to the U.S. healthcare system. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for registered nurses will grow by 15% through 2026, over twice as fast as the average for all occupations. Though registered nurses are able to achieve state licensure with a two-year degree, the industry is boosting its didactic requirement to a four-year degree for entry-level employment and licensure. Because higher education is tied to increased earning power, the change in educational standards is also expected to lead to higher pay for the profession overall.
Hopeful nursing professionals may find that Pennsylvania offers unique career opportunities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17.4% of the Pennsylvania’s population is older than 65. This is 2.2% higher than the national average. Pennsylvania has the fifth highest employment level of registered nurses in the U.S. Additionally, business is booming in the state’s major metropolitan areas, and the healthcare industry enjoyed the second highest job growth in the state during 2016.
How to Become a Nurse in Pennsylvania
Aspiring nurses across the U.S. follow essentially the same steps to achieve licensure, with some minor state-specific differences. Each state’s Board of Nursing (BON) reviews applications, sets fees, and establishes application deadlines. The BON oversees any other state-specific variations to normal procedure. For example, the Pennsylvania BON reviews new graduates’ temporary practice permit applications and NCLEX-RN examination registrations. Below, we’ve outlined pertinent details about the path to nursing licensure in Pennsylvania.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
For now, you can qualify for Pennsylvania licensure with a two-year degree, but the industry is changing this standard. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80% of all RNs should hold at least a BSN by 2020. If you’re new to nursing school, it’s probably wisest to enroll in a four-year BSN program. If you’re a working RN, consider enrolling in a campus-based or online RN to BSN program in Pennsylvania. If your career goals extend to advanced practice nursing, plan to continue your studies in a master’s program in nursing. Likewise, aspiring nurse educators and executive administrators should plan to attend a nursing school in Pennsylvania to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Whether you’re new to nursing or hoping to advance your career, nursing schools in Pennsylvania offer campus-based or online nursing degrees at every academic level. Consider online nursing degrees that match your career goals and make sure you meet prerequisites for entry. Hands-on learning experiences are a key element of nursing education and clinical requirements can vary significantly. Investigate on-site requirements carefully and ensure that you can manage them, particularly if you’re planning to attend nursing school online in Pennsylvania. Most online nursing degrees will allow you to complete clinical hours at a medical facility near your residence. Pay close attention to details like length; for example, accelerated nursing programs in Pennsylvania can lead to a degree in a matter of months. An online BSN program in Pennsylvania typically lasts four years.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Nursing schools in Pennsylvania design their curricula to prepare graduates for the NCLEX-RN exam after graduation. The computer-based exam consists of multiple-choice questions that respond to your performance as you progress through the material. The intuitive structure of the exam results in tests of varying lengths, but no exam lasts longer than six hours. After you finish an RN or BSN program in Pennsylvania, you must apply online for Pennsylvania professional licensing. When you receive professional licensing approval, you may register for the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing the exam grants you license to practice, but it does not guarantee your employment.
Nursing Licensure in Pennsylvania
After you complete your online nursing degree, you’re only a few steps away from professional licensure. First, you must apply for Pennsylvania professional licensure and pay $35 to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Second, you must apply to Pearson VUE for an exam slot and pay a $200 fee. The Pennsylvania BON reviews both applications, provides oversight on proper documentation, and issues approval on state professional licensure. Pearson then provides you with an Authorization to Test (ATT) that is valid for two years. With ATT in hand, you may register for a test date. While the testing window is long, we suggest that you schedule your exam as soon as possible to account for unforeseen delays or retakes.
Exam results arrive via postal mail in about a month, though you may opt for express online access for a small fee. When you pass the exam, you are licensed to practice nursing in the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is not a compact state, so if you plan to work elsewhere you’ll need to meet that state’s requirements for endorsement. New graduates of nursing colleges in Pennsylvania may apply for a temporary practice permit for an additional $35. This permit allows them to work under the close supervision of an RN while they wait to take the exam.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Pennsylvania
Licensing Fee $35
Career Outlook for Nurses in Pennsylvania
The healthcare industry is an important driver of Pennsylvania’s economy, representing the largest source of jobs in the state. Often able to house hundreds of patients at a time, hospitals deliver high-level care within key specialty areas like oncology, cardiology, and pediatrics. Hospital facilities, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics, ambulatory care centers, and surgical centers can offer working nurses a glimpse of the career paths available to them.
If you aspire to a cardiologic nurse practitioner role, for example, working as an RN in a cardiology clinic may provide you with valuable career insight long before you complete an online MSN program in Pennsylvania. Conversely, employment in one of Pennsylvania’s prestigious teaching universities can open the door to a career in an uncommon nursing subspecialty such as forensics or research. All online nursing degree students should note that nurse salaries are highest in eastern Pennsylvania near the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.
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Biggest Hospitals in Pennsylvania
As many students approach the completion of an online nursing degree, they wisely look to the nearest large hospital for opportunities. Large medical facilities not only hire more nurses, but they are also likely to be more welcoming to inexperienced nurses. Many of these entities also offer fellowships and other training opportunities in specialty areas. Pennsylvania has no shortage of medical facilities of any size, and boasts several enormous teaching hospital campuses. Here, we’ve highlighted two of the largest.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Shadyside: This teaching hospital can treat up to 1,482 medical and surgical patients in-house. Recognized for its excellence in organ transplantation, cardiology, and cardiothoracic surgery, the hospital also houses a designated Level I Trauma Center emergency room. UPMC Shadyside employs more than 14,000 registered nurses in 17 clinical specialties.
- Thomas Jefferson University Hospital: This Philadelphia-based teaching hospital houses up to 951 acutely ill or surgical patients at one time. It is particularly well known for its expertise in ophthalmology, orthopedics, and ENT treatment. Nearly 550,000 patients per year are treated here by over 8,000 employees. Of the hospital’s staff, 3,231 are full-time or part-time registered nurses.
Additional Nursing Resources in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State Nurses Association
Protecting the interests of Pennsylvania nursing professionals and patients, PSNA advocates for the profession and influences public policy. The PSNA site details current legislative advocacy, lists political and networking events on tap, and serves as a donor point for its PAC fund. Members also have access to continuing education resources.
Young Nurse Professionals
Although this networking group operates under the PSNA, it is not political in nature. Instead, the group provides opportunities for young nurses to meet and develop professionally outside of the workplace. Member benefits include newsletters, webinars, networking events, mentoring opportunities, leadership training, and industry conferences.
Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania
This chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association offers member benefits such as annual conventions, newsletters, scholarships, leadership training, NCLEX-RN prep, and local social and networking events for students in nursing schools in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders
Designed to serve and support nurse executives across the state, PONL offers member benefits including leadership training, annual conferences, networking events, professional speakers, an online discussion forum, and a job board.
Pennsylvania Emergency Nurses Association
Dedicated to providing support and knowledge to Pennsylvania ER nurses and their families, PAENA offers benefits like continuing education opportunities, webinars, annual conventions, newsletters, and a job board.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Pennsylvania
Curricula for nursing programs transfer easily to online study, and working nurses often take advantage of distance learning’s flexibility. Luckily, there’s no shortage of nursing schools in Pennsylvania offering online nursing degrees. In this database, we’ve gathered pertinent details for all accredited online nursing schools in Pennsylvania. These online nursing degrees include ADN, BSN, RN to BSN, MSN, and DNP programs.