Nurses help patients recover or maintain health and represent a critical element in the medical field. The field comprises several types of nursing roles in a professional environment. Nursing aides assist health professionals in settings such as hospitals and nursing homes, while registered nurses (RNs) plan and direct care to ensure that patients and families understand treatment processes.
Physician assistants perform many of the same functions as doctors by diagnosing and treating medical conditions, midwives provide prenatal and postnatal care, and nurse anesthetists administer pain management drugs like anesthetics in operating rooms and intensive care units.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average growth for the nursing field, with demographic trends poised to drive growth in the nursing industry. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the number of Americans aged 65 or older will increase from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050. Older adults require specialized medical attention from trained nurses. According to a University of Virginia report, 20% of Virginians will be aged 65 or older by 2030, making now an ideal time to consider Virginia nursing schools.
How to Become a Nurse in Virginia
Since nursing is integral to the medical system and patient care, nurse licensing remains a crucial public health issue. The Virginia Board of Nursing oversees licensure for nursing professionals throughout the state. All nursing candidates follow similar application processes, but specific procedures vary by specialization and applicant background. Virginia subscribes to the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) standards, published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, so nurses licensed in Virginia may practice in any eNLC state.
1. Choosing the Right Path for You
Before pursuing licensure, registered nurse candidates must complete accredited nursing programs in Virginia to earn at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Many prospective RNs complete bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees in Virginia to increase employment prospects and earning potential. Specialized nursing roles require higher degrees, as midwives and nurse anesthetists need a master of science in nursing (MSN). The minimum requirement for nurse practitioners (NPs) is an MSN, but many employers prefer candidates with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Nursing professionals who aspire to teach in nursing colleges in Virginia must hold a DNP and possess significant experience in the nursing field.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning an online nursing degree proves a cost-efficient way to enter the nursing profession. ADN-seekers entering RN programs in Virginia must have a high school degree and ACT or SAT scores and typically need two years to earn the degree. Online BSN programs in Virginia have similar admission requirements and usually require four years of full-time study, although students in accelerated nursing programs in Virginia may earn BSN degrees more quickly. MSN degree candidates should hold a BSN degree, and DNP applicants need an MSN degree and significant nursing experience. Many online nursing degrees also require in-person clinicals, internships, and fellowships.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Virginia subscribes to the eNLC licensing standards, set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). To earn licensure, nursing candidates must pass NCSBN's licensing exam, the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This standardized test ensures that practicing RNs possess the necessary skills to provide safe nursing care. The exam, administered at Pearson Vue testing facilities, costs $200 and takes up to five hours to complete. Although nursing programs prepare students for the NCLEX-RN, most candidates devote several additional weeks to focused study. Although passing the NCLEX-RN is necessary to become an RN, licensure does not guarantee employment.
Nursing Licensure in Virginia
Virginia subscribes to eNLC licensing standards, so RN candidates must pass the NCLEX-RN. For eligibility to take to test, aspiring nurses must complete an accredited nursing program, such as ADN or BSN programs from nursing schools in Virginia. After passing the NCLEX-RN and undergoing a criminal background check, prospective RNs apply for licensure through the Virginia Board of Nursing.
Although states reserve the right to impose additional requirements, most follow uniform licensing procedures set by the NCSBN. This standardization allows Virginia nurses to practice in any eNLC state. However, nurses must typically undergo criminal background checks in each state in which they seek employment. These national standards make attending nursing programs in Virginia practical even for students who intend to work in other states.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Virginia
App Fee $100
Background Check $33.95
State Requirements By Nursing Type
In Virginia, registered nurses may choose to complete an ADN or BSN to qualify for licensure. Despite the type of degree students choose, Virginia requires that educational programs hold national or regional accreditation. Out-of-state graduates should make sure their school meets the coursework expectations and minimum 500-hour clinical requirement, as standards vary by program.
RNs who have already earned their license from a state that belongs to the eNLC may practice in Virginia without extra licensure requirements. Additionally, out-of-state or international RNs may apply for an endorsement if their education meets Virginia standards and they have passed the NCLEX-RN exam. However, international applicants must also submit a professional report from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. Virginia also uses NURSYS, a national nurse database, to verify applicant licenses. Therefore, applicants from states that do not participate in NURSYS must also complete a license verification form.
First-time applicants must provide an official document of graduation, complete a fingerprint-based criminal background check, and pay $190 to the Virginia Board of Nursing. Separately, professionals must apply to the NCLEX-RN exam by obtaining an authorization to test from the board of nursing regulatory body (BON/RB), pay the $200 exam fee, and register with Pearson VUE. Virginia RNs must renew their license biennially. To qualify for renewal, RNs must earn 24 continuing education (CE) hours and pay the $140 fee.
Virginia certified nursing assistants (CNA) must complete training through a state-approved program. Out-of-state applicants should verify that their programs meet Virginia standards. At minimum, graduates need 120 hours of training to qualify. First-time applicants must provide proof of adequate education, which varies by candidate. Graduates of training programs must obtain a letter from their director, while nursing students may submit transcripts to show they have completed their minimum coursework requirements.
To earn certification, Virginia CNAs must pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP). The exam emphasizes the knowledge and practical skills needed to perform job duties as a CNA. A two-hour written portion of the exam contains 70 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as physical care skills, psychosocial care skills, and the role of the nurse aide. Students may choose to complete an oral exam instead, which includes 60 questions and 10 comprehension questions delivered through audio.
The NNAAP exam also considers 22 pertinent skills that CNA professionals must know, and the examiner chooses five skills for test takers to perform in 30 minutes. Written and oral exams cost $94. Applicants may pay for each section individually if they need to retake a portion of the exam. Passing candidates should receive their certificate within 2-3 weeks. Candidates who fail have 24 months and a maximum of three attempts to pass the exam.
Virginia CNAs must renew their certification every year, which costs $30. Advanced CNA certifications cost $20 to renew annually.
In Virginia, aspiring licensed practical nurses (LPN) can complete practical nursing programs, which take about one year to complete. Accredited programs should also contain clinical experiences. In Virginia, LPNs need 400 hours of direct client interaction across the lifespan to qualify. LPN applicants should submit an application to the Virginia Board of Education with the $170 fee, complete a criminal background check, and provide an attestation of graduation. Out-of-state graduates must submit a letter from their program stating each course they passed and a detailed explanation of their clinical experience.
Separately, graduates must register for the Virginia National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) by obtaining an authorization to test from the BON/RB. The NCLEX-PN exam tests specialized knowledge LPNs must understand to meet the needs of their patients. The exam costs $200, while international candidates may need to 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. LPNs licensed in states unaffiliated with the NLC may apply for an endorsement. However, endorsed LPNs must also hold passing scores on the NCLEX exam.
Virginia LPNs must renew their license every two years, which costs $120. Applications submitted after the deadline require an additional $40. Additionally, Virginia LPNs must earn 30 CE hours or 15 CE hours plus 640 practice hours to qualify.
NPs must hold a current RN license in the state of Virginia. However, professionals from eNLC affiliated states may retain the license from their home state. Additionally, NPs must earn an advanced degree in nursing to qualify for licensure, and programs should hold regional or national accreditation. Graduates from out-of-state programs should verify that their coursework meets the requirements for a Virginia license.
NPs can specialize in different types of nursing, so their educational paths may differ. Despite the area of specialty, Virginia NPs must earn a national certification. These nursing boards include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Nurses Credentialing Center, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, Pediatric Nurse Certification Board (PNCB), National Certification Corporation, and the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.
Each board offers specialized exams that assess pertinent knowledge and skills in the area the applicant intends to practice. For instance, PNCB applicants receive three hours to complete an exam that contains 175 multiple choice questions. The initial exam costs $295, while the renewal fee only costs $65. Professionals must renew this license each year, which requires 15 CE hours. Contrastingly, the ANCC exam costs $290-$395 for certification and NPs only renew every five years, requiring 75 CE hours.
First-time Virginia NP applicants pay a $125 fee, which remains valid for two years. To renew an NP license, professionals must submit an $80 fee. Professionals considering prescriptive authority must complete a separate application, which costs $75 initially and $35 to renew biennially.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Virginia
As its population ages, Virginia depends on nursing professionals to provide care and comfort to state residents. Graduates of nursing schools in Virginia choose from several related career paths. According to the BLS, a majority of nursing professionals in Virginia work as RNs in hospitals and clinics.
Many Virginia medical institutions hire NPs rather than doctors to care for more patients while adhering to tight budgets. As a result, the BLS projects demand for NPs, who are qualified to perform many of the same tasks as physicians, to increase 31% by 2026, much faster than average. Specialized nurse anesthetists, who administer drugs to patients undergoing medical procedures, rank among the most highly paid nursing professionals in Virginia. Since nurses require significant academic training, nursing schools in Virginia need experienced teachers, creating job opportunities for nursing instructors.
Employment Data For RNs in Virginia
Data collected by the BLS reveals an increase in demand for RNs through 2026 due to expansion in outpatient care, long-term care facilities, and a growing elderly population. While RNs find employment in multiple settings, most professionals work in hospitals. Currently, general medical and surgical hospitals employ nearly 1.7 million RNs nationwide.
Other considerable industries include physicians offices, home healthcare services, nursing facilities, and outpatient care centers. These fields typically pay $65,500-$75,500. However, RNs tend to earn more in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, payroll services, the federal executive branch, schools, and wholesale electronic markets. Salaries often range from $83,000-$90,500 on average. However, professionals should note these roles represent less than 1% of industry employment, which may increase job competition for this type of nursing.
RNs pursuing a career in Virginia should explore earning potential relevant to the state. On average, Virginia RNs take home $64,260, while RNs typically earn $70,000 nationwide. RNs might also want to consider looking for employment in Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Alexandria, or Arlington, as these cities offer the highest concentration of RN jobs. BLS data indicates that Arlington and Alexandria offer higher wages than others.
Employment Data For CNAs in Virginia
Many CNAs use their education as an entryway to a lucrative field. Therefore, many CNAs quickly advance to new roles including LPN or RN by continuing their education and gaining experience. Furthermore, as the elderly population continues to expand, many organizations require professionals who can provide specialized care, and the vast majority of CNAs find employment in nursing care facilities.
BLS data indicates that this industry accounts for nearly 600,000 jobs that pay around $27,500. Hospitals also possess a growing need for CNA professionals, and these institutions often pay around $30,640. Other considerable fields include continuing care communities, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare services.
While the median salary for a CNA rests at $27,510, CNAs may also consider the most lucrative industries, which include the federal executive branch, facilities support services, scientific research and development services, educational support services, and higher education facilities. These industries often pay between $34,290-$38,340.
CNAs launching their career in Virginia should explore their options in Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Arlington, or Alexandria. In particular, both Arlington and Alexandria offer the highest average salaries.
Employment Data For NPs in Virginia
As advanced nursing professionals, NPs often fulfill high-level tasks that reduce the need for physicians, allowing organizations to allocate funds more efficiently. Therefore, the demand for knowledgeable NPs continues to grow, with BLS data projecting a 31% increase in the field through 2026.
NP skills hold value in many professional settings, but most professionals choose to work in physicians' offices where they earn $105,730 on average. However, other considerable industries pay up to almost $112,000 on average. These fields include general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, and higher education institutions. While all the industries provided by BLS data provide average salaries above $100,000, NPs can earn nearly $140,000 in top paying industries, with professionals working in personal care services earning $139,460 on average. Other lucrative fields include management, consulting services, religious organizations, and dentist offices.
According to BLS data, average NP salaries across the nation rest at $101,710. However, professionals pursuing a career in Virginia should familiarize themselves with current trends in the state. The average Virginia NP earns $102,240, but NPs in Winchester earn between $110,910-$164,180 on average.
Biggest Hospitals in Virginia
Students in Virginia's online RN programs should learn about the state's largest hospitals. Most professionals in all types of nursing work in hospital settings, and large healthcare institutions hire more frequently than small clinics and medical practices. Large hospitals also provide teaching facilities and practical, in-person nursing experience through internships and fellowships.
- Inova: One of the largest medical companies in the state, Inova operates six hospitals in Northern Virginia with 1,700 beds and employs more than 16,000 healthcare professionals. Inova's hospitals serve more than 427,000 outpatients per year. Inova maintains relationships with educational institutions throughout the state, including some of the most respected nursing schools in Virginia.
- Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center: Richmond hosts VCU Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Virginia, with 865 beds and more than 11,000 employees. In 2015, the hospital had 89,549 emergency visits and 631,874 outpatient visits. As a research-oriented teaching hospital connected to VCU, the medical center provides hands-on training for health science students and those pursuing online nursing degrees.
Additional Nursing Resources in Virginia
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing: NCSBN sets licensing standards and leads efforts to establish uniform policies that allow nurses to practice in multiple states. Students attending nursing schools in Virginia should explore resources from this national organization, including up-to-date nurse licensing information and study materials for the NCLEX-RN.
- Nurses Association of Veteran Affairs: Nurses who work with veterans encounter unique challenges and opportunities. NOVA advocates for nurses who provide care to physically and psychologically wounded veterans and keep members informed about legislation and professional trends. NOVA's conferences allow members to share information about new research and best practices relevant to the specialization.
- Virginia Nurses Association: VNA, a constituent of the American Nurses Association, provides advocacy for nurses in Virginia. VNA provides information about state laws and industry practices and advocates for legislation beneficial to RNs. The organization helps RNs access CE resources and connects members with online RN-to-BSN programs in Virginia.
- Virginia Nursing Students' Association: VNSA assists nursing students in achieving personal and professional goals. The organization, comprising students from more than 75 nursing schools in Virginia spanning many types of nursing, holds events during which members share information about the latest trends in the nursing field. Joining this statewide student group provides valuable networking opportunities and proves particularly beneficial for students pursuing online nursing degrees.
- Virginia Association of School Nurses: Nurses who work in schools and with students face different issues than hospital nurses. VASN provides opportunities for school nurses to learn about best practices in this specialized profession. VASN holds conferences and social events for Virginia's school nurses to meet and network.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Virginia