According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is projected to grow by a staggering 15% between 2016 and 2026, which would result in more than 400,000 new nursing positions by 2026. An increasing demand means more professional opportunities and more lucrative compensation. The mean annual salary for registered nurses in South Carolina in 2016 was $63,470, and this figure can be expected to continue to grow with the need for qualified professionals in the state. While many nurses initially enter the field because of a passion for helping others, the exceptional employment outlook of the profession can be a powerful draw as well.
If you are interested in caring for the ill, injured, and elderly in your career, now may be a good time to earn an online nursing degree. Whether you are looking for your first job or seeking to deepen your expertise in a particular area, this guide will offer a comprehensive overview of the educational opportunities available to you through nursing schools in South Carolina.
How to Become a Nurse in South Carolina
Generally speaking, nurses across the country need to take similar steps in order to be licensed to practice. This process typically involves earning an accredited degree in nursing and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). However, since licensing is ultimately done at the state level, individual states may have additional steps or unique requirements. The requirements for licensure in South Carolina are detailed below.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
In South Carolina, you will need, at a minimum, an accredited undergraduate degree in nursing to become a registered nurse. This can either be a two-year associate degree in nursing or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing. If you plan to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or a nurse practitioner (NP), you will likely need to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN). If you are interested in conducting research, teaching nursing, or taking on advanced clinical leadership roles, you should look into completing a doctor of nursing (DNP).
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Nurses have demanding work schedules. Thankfully, there are a number of high-quality, online nursing programs available in South Carolina that allow working students to pursue their education with a flexible schedule. Prerequisites for online nursing degrees vary by program, but undergraduate degrees often require a high school diploma, or its equivalent, and a minimum GPA. Graduate nursing programs require the successful completion of an undergraduate degree. Many programs, especially those leading to advanced degrees, also require an in-person clinical component. On average, it takes one to two years to earn an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, two to three years to earn a master’s degree, and three to six years to earn a doctoral degree.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
All of the online nursing degrees listed above will prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, though students must contact the South Carolina Board of Nursing to get official authorization to sit for the exam. The test costs $200 for U.S. residents, and participants have a maximum of six hours to complete the exam. Preparation varies, but most nursing schools in South Carolina recommend students take two to three months to study for the NCLEX-RN. Passing this exam--or even being licensed by the South Carolina Board of Nursing--does not guarantee that you will get a job as a nurse, but possessing the skills to pass the exam certainly improves your prospects.
Nursing Licensure in South Carolina
Within three years of completing an accredited degree from a nursing school in South Carolina, you will need to petition the South Carolina Board of Nursing for an official authorization to take the NCLEX-RN. This exam covers topics such as safe and effective care environments, health promotion and maintenance, and physiological integrity. Anyone who wants to practice in the state must pass the NCLEX-RN to be licensed. In addition to earning an online nursing degree and passing this exam, South Carolina requires all applicants to submit to a background check, and requires individuals educated in a foreign country to demonstrate English proficiency.
South Carolina is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This allows nurses who have obtained licensure in another member state to practice in South Carolina, and vice versa. However, it should be noted that if a nurse permanently establishes residency in another compact state, they must apply for licensure in their new home state. In other words, the NLC allows nurses to practice temporarily in another state or continue their work interrupted as they complete the licensure process in South Carolina.
Nursing Licensing Costs in South Carolina
Exam Fee $90
Endorsement Fee $100
State Requirements By Nursing Type
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) in South Carolina requires candidates to earn a degree from an accredited program. Professionals who value accruing experience immediately can complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) in just two years with full-time attendance. An ADN prepares students for entry-level nursing positions, and ADNs often begin working while completing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which can boost their job opportunities and lead to higher earning potential. RN-to-BSN programs require two years to complete, while BSN programs require four years with full-time attendance.
Out-of-state graduates may apply for an RN license in South Carolina if their program holds approval from a nursing board. The out-of-state program must meet or exceed South Carolina requirements. Otherwise, applicants may need to complete additional coursework or clinical hours. However, RNs with an out-of-state license from a state that belongs to the NLC may practice in affiliated states without additional licensure requirements.
To apply for a South Carolina license, applicants must submit official transcripts, pass a criminal background check, and apply for the NCLEX-RN exam. The NCLEX-RN application process requires students to obtain an authorization to test from the board of nursing regulatory body (BON/RB), pay the $200 exam fee, and register with Pearson VUE. South Carolina RNs must renew their license every two years by earning 30 continuing education credits and submitting a $75 fee with their application.
To become a certified nurse assistant (CNA) in South Carolina, applicants must complete training from an approved program. Graduates need at least 100 hours of training to qualify. Professionals who have completed coursework in other states must prove that their program meets South Carolina standards. Applicants without sufficient training may need to complete additional tasks to qualify.
To become certified, South Carolina CNAs must pass an exam provided by the National Nurse Aide Program. Professionals have two years to pass this exam from the time they complete their training and may take the exam up to three times. This two-part assessment focuses on the knowledge and practical skills needed to perform job duties as a CNA. Testees have two hours to complete the 70 multiple choice questions on the written exam. This portion of the exam focuses on physical care skills, psychosocial care skills, and the role of the nurse aide. The oral exam contains 60 multiple-choice questions and 10 comprehension questions delivered through audio. Additionally, testees must complete a skills evaluation, which considers 22 pertinent skills that CNA professionals must know. However, the examiner chooses five skills for test takers to perform in 30 minutes. The exam costs $120 and remains valid for two years. Upon successful completion of the exam, testees should receive their certificate within two to three weeks.
South Carolina CNA certification remains valid for two years. Failure to renew a certification leads to a $28 recertification fee. CNAs must complete another 100-hour program if a certifications remains inactive for two years after expiration.
Licensed practical nurses (LPN) in South Carolina must show proof of completion from an accredited program and submit a $70 application fee. However, students who have at least 41 semester hours may qualify to take the LPN exam, which allows professionals to begin working sooner. Situations of equivalency require professionals to verify completion of pertinent coursework, including nursing fundamentals, nursing across the lifespan, physiology, anatomy, and medical nursing. Candidates applying for their initial license must also pass a criminal background check. Certified out-of-state applicants with sufficient education may qualify for an endorsement. These applicants must verify their license and pay the $100 application fee. Any applicant with insufficient hours may need to complete additional clinical experiences before they qualify for licensure.
South Carolina applicants also need to pass the NCLEX-PN exam. The NCLEX-PN exam tests specialized knowledge that LPNs must understand to meet the needs of their patients. When registering, testees must obtain an authorization to test from the BON/RB and submit the $200 exam fee. Candidates outside the U.S. must pay additional fees. The NCLEX-PN uses the computerized adaptive testing system, which assigns a percentage of all test items to students based on ability. All testees must answer at least 85 questions, while some test takers may answer up to 205 within the five-hour test period.
South Carolina LPNs must renew their license biennially. Professionals must complete 30 hours of CE coursework and pay a $75 fee. LPNs submitting late renewal applications may have to pay an additional fee.
In South Carolina, aspiring Nurse Practitioners (NP) may obtain an advanced practice nurse (APRN) license from the South Carolina Board of Nursing. NPs can choose from multiple specialty areas, including pediatrics, geriatrics, or family medicine. Some professionals drawn to specialize in particular illnesses may choose oncology, while NPs who value exposure to constant change may specialize in emergency nursing. Therefore, educational and credentialing requirements depend on the type of nursing an NP pursues.
To apply for initial licensure, professionals must submit official transcripts from an accredited program. Additionally, South Carolina NPs must hold a national board certification. Potential organizations include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. NPs may also consider organizations that focus on a particular specialty including the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board, the National Certification Corporation, or the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. To obtain certification, applicants must register to take an exam that covers pertinent knowledge and skills that NPs need to know for that particular field. Both exam fees and test formats vary. For instance, the ANCC charges a $290-$395 fee for a five-year certification, and the renewal process requires 75 continuing education hours. Additionally, as an NLC member, South
Carolina accepts out-of-state NPs from affiliated states who can provide valid credential information.
South Carolina charges APRNs $30 for their initial fee and $20 for prescriptive authority. NPs who need a temporary license must pay an additional $130. APRN renewal costs $105, and $145 for APRN renewal with prescriptive authority.
Career Outlook for Nurses in South Carolina
Graduating from a nursing school in South Carolina opens up a variety of professional opportunities. Licensed nurses can find jobs in traditional settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices, and extended care facilities, but they can also pursue work as health advocates and educators within schools or community organizations. Graduates of South Carolina nursing schools also have the option of working one on one with patients in their homes.
Employment Data For RNs in South Carolina
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for RNs should expand by 15% through 2026 due to an increase in the aging population, dependency on outpatient care, and a need for professionals in long-term care facilities. Currently, most RNs work in hospitals. In fact, general medical and surgical hospitals employ nearly 1.7 million RNs nationwide. However, other top industries include physicians offices, home health care services, nursing facilities, and outpatient care centers.
RNs should also consider state-specific information. On average, South Carolina RNs earn $63,630, while the national average rests at $70,000. RNs who want to find the most prevalent and lucrative job opportunities might consider Charleston, Richmond, Colombia, Anderson, or Mauldin. These areas have the highest rate of employment, and data indicates that RNs earn the most in Charleston.
Employment Data For CNAs in South Carolina
BLS data indicates that the CNA job outlook should increase by 11% through 2026. This growth often stems from seasoned CNAs advancing to new roles, a growing elderly population who require specialized care, and high turnover. Currently, the majority of professionals work in nursing care facilities. In fact, this industry accounts for nearly 600,000 jobs, and professionals earn $27,500 on average. Hospitals also employ many CNAs and often provide better salaries, which hover around $30,640. Other top industries include continuing care communities, assisted living facilities, home health care services, and employment services.
Some positions offer much higher salaries than the national average. BLS data indicates that the federal executive branch, facilities support services, scientific research and development services, educational support services, and higher education facilities offer the highest salaries. Salaries often range from $34,000-$38,000.
CNAs in South Carolina typically earn $28,410, which is a little more than the national average. In Charleston, Beaufort, and Bluffton, CNAs earn some of the highest salaries, which reach just over $30,000 per year. However, because Charleston provides the highest levels of CNA employment, job seekers may find it easier to secure a position that pays well.
Employment Data For NPs in South Carolina
NPs have the qualifications to assume leadership roles and make decisions independently, which alleviates the need for the number of physicians and lowers overall costs for organizations. Therefore, as the nursing field continues to grow at a rapid pace, so does the job outlook for NPs.
According to BLS data, NPs can anticipate a 31% increase in employment opportunities through 2026. The majority of NPs work in physicians’ offices, earning $105,730 on average. However, many NPs also work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, other health practitioners’ offices, and higher education institutions. These industries pay $100,000-$111,500. NPs may also earn between $115,500-$139,500 in top paying industries, which include personal care services, management, consulting services, religious organizations, dentists’ offices, and office administrative services. However, these industries often represent less than .005% of employment, which could increase levels of competition.
Aspiring South Carolina NPs should examine state-specific data. While NPs earn $101,710 on average nationally, the state average hovers around $97,140. Furthermore, BLS data indicates that while NPs can find many employment opportunities throughout the state, the highest mean wages come from Sumter.
Biggest Hospitals in South Carolina
According to the BLS, the majority of nursing position are in a hospital setting. Not only do hospitals provide the majority of job openings for nurses, they are also ideal learning environments for students who have recently graduated from nursing schools in South Carolina, as well as for students gaining clinical experience that is needed for licensure.
- Greenville Memorial Hospital: GMH is the flagship hospital of the Greenville Hospital System, and the largest single hospital in South Carolina. Serving the northwest region of the state, GMH has 710 beds and employs more than 3,600 registered nurses that work within the statewide system.
- Medical University of South Carolina Health Medical Center: MUSC is one of the top nursing schools in South Carolina and has one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals. The 700-bed medical center provides experiential learning opportunities for the 2,600 healthcare professionals that are trained by MUSC each year.
Additional Nursing Resources in South Carolina
- South Carolina Nurses Association: The SCNA’s mission is to represent, support, and advocate for all registered nurses in the state. The organization works to achieve this mission through lobbying efforts and political organizing and by hosting a wide array of professional development resources and a statewide job board.
- South Carolina Board of Nursing: The Board of Nursing, a division of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, is the official licensing and regulatory body for nurses in the state of South Carolina. All nurses whose permanent residence is in South Carolina must seek licensure through this board.
- South Carolina Organization of Nurse Leaders: Part of the South Carolina Hospital Association, the SCONL provides educational and networking opportunities to current and aspiring nursing leaders. The SCONL hosts regular meetings of its membership at locations across the state and offers individual consultations to its members.
- South Carolina Nurses Foundation, Inc.: The SCNF recognizes exemplary nurses in South Carolina and provides scholarships to support the future of the profession. A $1,000 scholarship is available to undergraduate students and a $2,000 scholarship is available to graduate students.
- South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce: The SCOHW is a state-funded research body that studies issues related to the supply and demand of healthcare professionals in South Carolina. This research is publicly available and is critical to the development of healthcare policy in the state.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in South Carolina