As the nursing field expands, nursing school graduates in Wyoming can expect a rewarding career with a competitive salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses in Wyoming earn $62,980 on average annually. A 2017 study by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services projects that Wyoming will experience a shortage of nurses in the next 10 years, especially in the field of geriatric medicine. The report also states that registered nurses saw the most growth of all healthcare professions in Wyoming from 2010 to 2015, experiencing a 14.8% increase.
For students considering nursing school online, many Wyoming-based organizations, such as the Wyoming Nurses Association, offer support, advocacy, and continuing education to nurses. Students interested in an online nursing degree can learn about these resources and how to become a licensed nurse in Wyoming on this page, along with the job outlook for graduates of nursing colleges in Wyoming.
How to Become a Nurse in Wyoming
Nursing school graduates in Wyoming go through a similar process as those in other states. All potential nurses must complete an in-person or online nursing degree before passing a licensing exam. In Wyoming, nurses must renew their licenses every two years. Aspiring nurses can expect to take the following steps in building their careers:
1. Choosing The Right Path For You
Associate degree in nursing (ADN) coursework prepares students for the RN licensing exam, and can lead to a career as a psychiatric or school nurse. RNs looking for more advanced career opportunities might pursue an RN-to-BSN program. Nurses who complete an online BSN program in Wyoming qualify to become nurse anesthetists and flight nurses, and can pursue more advanced degrees, like an MSN or DNP. If you are interested in teaching nursing at the college level, consider obtaining an advanced nursing degree.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Many Wyoming nursing schools offer online nursing degrees, which fit the busy schedules of working students. Students can typically complete an ADN in two years and a BSN in four. Accelerated nursing programs in Wyoming allow students to complete their degrees even more quickly. Registered nurses may complete an online RN-to-BSN program in Wyoming, which allows them to earn their bachelor's degree in two years. According to the Wyoming State Board of Nursing (WSBN), all nursing programs in Wyoming must include a clinical component in their curriculum.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
After completing an in-person or online nursing degree, aspiring nurses must obtain a license. The RN license in Wyoming costs $395, including fees for the application, a criminal background check, and the licensing exam. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) takes six hours to complete and accounts for $200 of the overall RN licensure costs. An ADN or BSN prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN, but students should complete additional study on their own, as well. The WSBN provides a list of refresher courses for students preparing for the exam. After passing the exam and obtaining RN licensure, you can practice professionally.
Nursing Licensure in Wyoming
First-time nursing license applicants can register for the NCLEX-RN as part of their application. This computer adaptive exam tests the main areas of knowledge covered by online RN programs in Wyoming. The test is administered by Pearson VUE for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). BSN programs in Wyoming also prepare their students for this exam. Exam applicants must have their nursing program send a transcript to the WSBN.
If you already hold RN licensure in another state, you can pay a $135 fee to apply for licensure by endorsement in Wyoming. The application to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), which entails less training than becoming an RN, requires applicants to complete a nursing program and register for the appropriate NCLEX exam. Applicants should note that all nursing licenses in Wyoming expire December 31 of every even-numbered year. You can apply for license renewal after October 1st of every even-numbered year.
State Requirements by Nursing Type
Registered nurses in Wyoming must complete a series of steps to obtain licensure. They must first enroll in and complete a state-approved educational program. The Wyoming State Board of Nursing lists these programs on its website -- degrees without state accreditation don't qualify graduates to proceed with the licensing process. Prospective RNs should then apply for a state nursing license. This application costs $130, plus an additional $60 for a compulsory background check. With WSBN approval, applicants may qualify to sit for the NCLEX-RN.
Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX-RN covers professional environment safety, health promotion and maintenance, and psychosocial and physiological integrity. Participants answer at least 75 multiple-choice questions, though computer automated systems may ask more questions to ascertain competence. Participants have six hours to complete these questions. Successful testers' information appears in the license look-up search engine on the WSBN website.
Applicants who fail the NCLEX-RN may retake the exam up to 10 times in the five-year eligibility period following nursing school graduation. RNs with out-of-state certification can transfer into Wyoming with preexisting passing NCLEX-RN test scores, 1,600 logged professional nursing hours, and/or a state-sanctioned refresher course.
Keep your RN status active by renewing your license every two years. To qualify for renewal, you must log 400 professional nursing hours, 200 hours of logged work with 15 hours of continuing education, or 30 hours of continuing education.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) administers to patients' general health concerns, often acting as a liaison between patients, RNs, and LPNs. Also termed orderlies and nursing aides, CNAs work closely with patients as they cope with sudden issues and chronic illnesses.
As with Wyoming's RN requirements, CNAs must complete an associate degree or certificate program at a state-approved school. Graduates must pass a certification exam within one year of finishing school. The state of Wyoming relies on the American Red Cross to administer CNA certification exams -- check out the Red Cross website for training and test prep, plus other exam information. The exam fee totals $98. On test day, prospective CNAs take two exams: one on skills, and one on general knowledge, both of which are available as oral exams in English and Spanish. Aspiring CNAs may take the exam up to five times within a year of graduation.
To complete state certification, all CNAs must submit and pay for the application and a state background check, costing $120 total. Out-of-state CNAs can apply to transfer their certification, as long as they can provide documented work as a nurse aide and completed work training or continuing education over the previous year. All CNA applicants can check their certification status through the WSBN licensing search engine.
LPNs assume more patient responsibilities than CNAs, because while CNA training takes 4-6 weeks, LPN training generally takes a year to complete.
As with the other nursing levels, prospective LPNs must complete an educational program approved by the state board. Like RNs, prospective LPNs must take the NCLEX-PN exam, administered by the NCSBN. The PN exam covers the same four categories as the RN exam (professional environment safety, health promotion/maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity), and participants have five hours to complete at least 85 questions through an automated system at a sanctioned exam test site. This exam costs $200. Prospective LPNs must also pay the WSNB $130 in application fees, and $60 for a compulsory background check.
LPNs recertify licensure every two years. Like an RN, LPNs qualify for recertification with 400 hours of logged employment or 200 hours employment with 15 hours of continuing education. Alternatively, you can recertify without employment hours, as long as you can demonstrate 30 hours of continuing education or certification courses.
Nurse practitioners (NPs), also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), take on independent responsibilities as nurse clinicians. Advanced practice training in specialized areas, such as pediatrics, midwifery, and oncology prepares NPs to administer individualized assistance, and work with patients throughout treatment and post-op rehabilitation. These nurses must complete a state-approved master's degree. Multiple Wyoming schools provide intensive programs for RNs or LPNs interested in taking on NP responsibilities.
Master's graduates qualify to apply for Wyoming State advanced practice nurse certification. These applicants must submit the APRN application, a $250 application fee, and a $60 background check fee, plus proof of passing a nationally recognized exam in their specialized field. For example, NPs in anesthesiology take an exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
Licensed NPs maintain licensure through membership and recertification with specialized associations, like the NBCRNA noted above. NPs looking to renew their Wyoming state licenses must complete 15 credit hours of continuing education; 60 documented hours of specialized, professional work; and 400 hours of general nursing administration. Licensure expires every two years.
The Wyoming Council for Advanced Practice Nurses (WCAPN) keeps members current on Wyoming's healthcare legislative initiatives, and provides ongoing education opportunities to help members maintain licensure. The WCAPN also provides a job board to spread information about career opportunities for NPs statewide.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Wyoming
The nursing field is expanding, thanks to more people focusing on preventative health and a growing rate of chronic illnesses. The BLS projects a 15% growth rate for the national employment of registered nurses from 2016 to 2026 -- much higher than the national average. Casper boasts the highest concentration of nursing jobs in Wyoming, with about 24 nurses per 1,000 jobs.
Registered nurses in Cheyenne earn the highest hourly wage, at $32.56. With an online nursing degree, you can choose from many different degree paths. Some nurses with their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) work with specific patient populations, like newborn babies and patients with heart or kidney disease. Those with advanced degrees, like a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP), can become researchers, teachers, or administrators. Online MSN programs in Wyoming also prepare students to become nurse practitioners.
Employment Data For RNs in Wyoming
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean wage of RNs in Wyoming is $64,900. This wage amounts to less than the national average of $70,000, but since Wyoming boasts a low cost of living, the below-average salary can still go a long way. RNs work in general hospitals, specialized clinics, general practitioner offices, outpatient and rehabilitation centers, and home healthcare services. The best-paying professional centers include surgical hospitals and rehabilitation centers, because those positions entail increased stress levels and severe patient issues.
BLS employment maps indicate that employment rates for RNs remain constant throughout Wyoming. As of May 2017, Wyoming employed 4,910 nurses statewide. Rural southern counties in the state, toward the Utah and Colorado borders, employ fewer registered nurses per capita, and thus offer more job opportunities overall. This is due in part to the lower earning potential in southern regions. Related professions requiring RN certification, like nursing educators, also enjoy relatively strong employment opportunities in Wyoming.
Employment Data For CNAs in Wyoming
CNAs, or certified nursing assistants, also find employment throughout Wyoming. According to the BLS employment maps on nursing assistants, Wyoming CNAs earn more on average than those in the neighboring states of Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Compared to the national average CNA salary of $27,510, Wyoming nurse assistants earn a mean annual wage of $29,970, with an earning potential of up to $38,560. The BLS indicate that the highest-earning CNAs live in the northern part of the state, near the Montana border.
Geriatric care hires the most CNAs, since these facilities need CNAs to provide long-term assistance to residents. This assistance may include bathing and grooming, feeding, safe patient transport, and room maintenance, such as changing bed linens. Working under the supervision of RNs and physicians, CNAs document patient progress, while providing consistent care. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes all need CNAs with certification in geriatric care to maintain a high quality of patient assistance. Other nursing positions, such as orderlies and general aids, should experience conservative growth over the next decade. CNAs, on the other hand, should enjoy a 24% growth rate in that time frame, according to BLS projections.
Employment Data For NPs in Wyoming
NPs assume responsibility for independent treatment decisions, and thus earn a significantly higher wage. In Wyoming, NPs earn a mean annual wage of $113,310, exceeding the national average of $110,930. NPs in Wyoming's 90th percentile earn an average of $157,780 per year. The increase in salary is due in part to the primary locations of employment, which include private physician offices, general and surgical hospitals, and outpatient care centers. NPs in Wyoming make more than those in other midwestern states, and populous cities like Casper and Cheyenne employ a particularly high concentration of NPs, who enjoy a relatively high earning potential.
The BLS projects NP employment to rise by 31% over the next decade -- over three times the national average employment growth rate. Specialized NPs, including midwives and nurse anesthetists, face the highest projected growth rate, at 31%. General health diagnosis NPs are projected to grow by 16%.
Biggest Hospitals in Wyoming
Hospitals employ the most nurses in the United States, with over 61% of all registered nurses working in private or nonprofit hospitals. Students and graduates of online nursing programs in Wyoming can expect to find nursing internships and other educational work opportunities in hospital settings. The Wyoming Hospital Association includes over 30 member hospitals, making it an excellent resource for job listings and other opportunities.
- Cheyenne Regional Medical Center: With over 2,000 employees and 222 beds, Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is the biggest hospital in Wyoming. Cheyenne Regional Medical Group is the state's largest medical group, with over 75 providers and 15 locations. This hospital also boasts a year-long graduate nurse residency program for new nursing graduates.
- Wyoming Medical Center: Located in Casper, the nonprofit, community-focused Wyoming Medical Center employs 1,125 people, with 212 beds. Its year-long nursing residency program includes intensive training and a mentorship program. The hospital also offers certification and continuing education in topics like EKG interpretation and advanced critical care.
Additional Nursing Resources in Wyoming
- Wyoming State Board of Nursing: This board issues nursing licenses and regulates the practice of nursing in Wyoming. The WSBN acts as a resource for continuing education opportunities and local nursing refresher courses. The board also participates in the Wyoming Nurse Summit and Convention and provides information on other upcoming conferences.
- Wyoming Hospital Association: The Wyoming Hospital Association represents and advocates for hospitals in Wyoming. It also maintains a list of job openings and educational opportunities. Graduates of nursing schools in Wyoming who would like to work in local hospitals can quickly compare potential employers on the association's website.
- Wyoming Nurses Association: This affiliate of the American Nurses Association represents nurses in Wyoming. With events like Nurses' Day at the Legislature, the association provides ample opportunities for networking and education. Approximately 14,000 RNs and LPNs subscribe to the association's quarterly newsletter, Wyoming Nurse.
- Wyoming Center for Nursing: The WCN aims to put the goals from the Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report into practice. The WCN sponsors a nursing curriculum called Revolutionizing Nursing Education in Wyoming, now available at the University of Wyoming and many Wyoming community colleges. The organization partners with nursing schools in Wyoming, healthcare employers, foundations, and professional organizations.
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: NAPNAP, the professional association for nurse practitioners who work with children, lobbies congress for healthcare policies that benefit children and families. It also provides educational resources to current pediatric nurse practitioners, and nursing students studying to specialize in pediatrics. NAPNAP provides accreditation to continuing education programs in nursing, as well.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Wyoming