According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of nursing is projected to grow by a staggering 15% over the next decade, with more than 400,000 new nurses needed by 2026. Increasing demand means more professional opportunities and more lucrative compensation. The mean annual salary for registered nurses in South Carolina in 2016 was an impressive $63,470, and this figure can be expected to continue to grow with the need for qualified professionals in the state. While many, if not most, 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 while gaining a strong sense of financial security, now is an ideal time for you 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.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
In South Carolina, you will need, at a minimum, an accredited undergraduate degree in nursing in order 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 MSN degree. If you are interested in conducting research, teaching nursing, or taking on advanced clinical leadership roles, you should look into completing a DNP degree.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Nurses have incredibly demanding work schedules. Thankfully, there are a number of high-quality, online nursing degrees available in South Carolina that allow working students to flexibly continue their education. Prerequisites for online nursing degrees vary by program, but undergraduate degrees will often require a high school diploma/equivalency and a minimum GPA. Graduate programs, e.g. MSN or DNP degrees, require successful completion of an undergraduate degree. Many programs, especially those leading to advanced degrees, will 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.
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 improves your prospects.
Nursing Licensure in South Carolina
Within three years of completing an accredited degree from a nursing school in South Carolina (be it an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree), 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. All aspiring nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to be licensed to practice in the state. In addition to earning an online nursing degree and passing this exam, South Carolina requires that all applicants submit to a background check. It also requires that individuals educated in a foreign country 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 will still need to 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
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.
The wide scope of where nurses are needed can help explain the tremendous growth the field is projected to see over the next decade. In South Carolina alone, Projections Central (affiliated with the Bureau of Labor Statistics) anticipates that the Palmetto State will require an additional 6,350 nurses by 2026—a projected growth rate of 15.3%. This rate is not only substantially higher than the expected growth of other professions, it is also slightly higher than the average growth rate for nursing jobs across the entire country.
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Biggest Hospitals in South Carolina
According to a 2011 report by South Carolina’s Office of Healthcare Workforce, 65% of registered nurses and 51% of advanced practice registered nurses in the state work in a hospital. 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 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 the majority of the 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
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, SCONL provides educational and networking opportunities to current and aspiring nursing leaders. SCONL hosts regular meetings of its membership at locations across the state and offers individual consultations to its members.
South Carolina Nurses Foundation, Inc
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
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
The following database provides an easy to navigate list of all accredited associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN to BSN) programs that are available online in South Carolina.