Becoming an RN in Virginia – A Roadmap

Becoming an RN in Virginia - A Roadmap

Are you interested in becoming an RN in Virginia? 

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect job, and nursing is not an exception. However, one can argue that its perks greatly outweigh its flaws.

Despite the potentially long hours (most RNs in Virginia work 40 to 49 hours a week), wouldn’t it be great to know you can make a real difference in people’s lives?

From a more practical point of view, a nursing license ensures you have ample job opportunities in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 4,430 openings annually.

So, we think it would be great if you pursue a nursing career! 

But the next question is — How do you become a nurse in Virginia? Where do you start?

Don’t you worry — we have something for you you’re sure to find useful!

Our comprehensive guide details the various steps on how to become an RN in Virginia. We’ll cover the following areas:

Are you ready to begin? Let’s go!

How to Become an RN in Virginia in 4 Steps

The road to becoming a nurse is long and winding. You may lose your way a couple of times, but remember the word GLOW if you’re unsure of the next step.

It stands for the four steps that’ll launch your nursing career.

Isn’t it interesting? Let’s explore each of these in detail.

Step#1: Painting the Big Picture: What is the GOAL?

There is no ideal nursing career. Each of us has to find our definition.

Most people think of hospitals and nurses synonymously, and it doesn’t come as a surprise. Most of the time, that is where you’ll find them.

But it’s essential to your growth to understand that there are nurses who don’t find their calling in hospitals (or health facilities). You might genuinely want to work in that environment, and that’s fine. What’s imperative is it’s your choice.

What does the ideal nursing career look like to you? Do you prefer to give direct patient care? Or do you see yourself in a research lab? You may be doing case management or taking on a leadership role. 

The choice is yours. 

The clearer your goal is, the easier your decision points become. In the end, it’s best to take the path that leads you closer to it.

You’ll know what we mean when we get to step 2.

Step#2: Education Requirements: Develop a Love of LEARNING

You’re going to make several life-changing choices regarding your nursing education. And all those are anchored to your career goals.

This step consists of three parts: 

    • Determining which nursing program to study

    • Selecting your nursing school

    • Earning your required clinical hours

Each one is crucial, so let’s take a closer look.

Your Nursing Program

There are two nursing programs you can take. Either you finish with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Either makes you eligible for the NCLEX, but each impacts your journey differently. Like many things, you cannot (and should not) let others make this decision for you.

It’s best to make a side-by-side comparison before you choose a program. You can use our chart for that.

Area of Comparison Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Program Duration 1.5 to 2 years 3 to 4 years
Program Focus Technical Nursing
(nursing concepts and clinical practice)
Technical nursing PLUS other subjects. These include, but are not limited to:
· Ethics
· Communication
· Management
· Leadership
Tuition Fee Less Expensive More Expensive
NCLEX Pass Rate(2020, First Time) 83.4% 91.0%
Potential Specialties Home Care nurse
Emergency Room nurse
Oncology nurse
Pediatric nurse
Patient coordinator
Care coordinator
Clinical associate
Clinical nurse liaison
Clinical research associate
Nurse Case Manager
Public Health nurse
Nurse navigator
Pediatric nurse
Emergency Room nurse
Forensic nurse
Nurse recruiter
Forensic nurse
Clinical research nurse
Nurse Health Coach
Psychiatric nurse
Trauma nurse
Career Advancement Opportunities Less More
Salary Lower Higher

Whichever program you pick, it’ll have some short-term and long-term effects.

For example, an ADN allows you to enter the workforce earlier, which means you’ll start earning sooner. On the other hand, a BSN requires you to study longer but may give you more opportunities for advancement.

Your Nursing School

The other thing you must decide on regarding your nursing education is your school. 

There are over 50 nursing schools in Virginia offering both degrees, so you have more than enough options. While having choices is a good thing, having too many might leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Who’s the best person to decide which nursing school you should attend? 


The best we can do is give you some guidelines as you’re exploring your options. Here are some things to consider:

    • Class Structure: Which setting energizes you? Some students learn best when they attend large lectures, while others prefer small classes.

    • Technology: Nursing schools these days have found creative ways to make technology work in their favor. It’s not just about having computers. Some schools have simulation labs that allow you to apply clinical skills without ever having to leave campus.

    • NCLEX Pass Rates: Each school tracks how many graduates pass the licensure test on their first try. Individual pass rates are a good indicator of how well a school prepares its students for the NCLEX.

    • Financial Aid: Whether you’re pursuing an ADN or a BSN, financial support can be a great advantage. At the very least, it takes away some stress from thinking about where you’ll get money for tuition.

    • Career Placement Programs: The goal is to enter the workforce. Schools with established partnerships with healthcare facilities can give you an advantage when finding your first job.

Your Required Clinical Hours

When choosing a school (or a nursing program), check whether the curriculum includes clinical hours. These will count towards the required hours for your license application.

The Virginia Board of Nursing requires all RN applicants to complete at least 500 hours of hand-on supervised direct client care experience. You can also earn these by working as an RN without compensation.

Step#3: Examination and Endorsement: OBTAINING a Virginia License

Once you’ve gotten your degree, it’s time to get your RN license. There are two ways to do this in Virginia.

We’ll look at the steps for both processes — Examination and Endorsement.

Licensure by Examination

This is for those who are applying for an RN license for the first time.

    1. Complete your application to the Virginia Board of Nursing and pay the $190 non-refundable fee. 

Applicants can use debit or credit cards if they apply online. Those who send in their application through the mail must include a check or money order payable to the Treasurer of Virginia. You must also enclose the checklist instructions with paper applications.

The VBON keeps applications on file for one year. If you do not obtain your license within that period, you will have to reapply.

    1. Register with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX. You will pay a $200 testing fee.

    1. Complete the fingerprint-based Criminal Background Check (CBC). You can only do this through Fieldprint VAand can only register once you’ve sent your application.

Those who applied online will receive a confirmation receipt. It includes a VBON Fieldprint Code, which you need to register.

    1. Submit proof of education. 

For applicants who graduated from a nursing program in Virginia:

    • Check with your school if it will send an Attestation Letter. If it does, then your official transcript is no longer required. 

    • Your school must email the document directly to the VBON through The email’s subject line must indicate Name of Applicant: Official Transcript OR Applicant: Attestation Letter.

For applicants who graduated from a program outside of Virginia or in U.S. Territories:

    • Ensure your final transcript shows direct client care contact hours per course.

    • Your school must also prove that it conducted the nursing program in English. If not, you must undergo an English proficiency assessment from an approved testing center (IELTS, ETS, or TOELF).

For applicants who completed their nursing education outside of the U.S.:

    • Request the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) to send either of the following to the VBON:

    1. CES Professional Report

    1. CGFNS Certificate

    1. Wait for your Authorization to Test (ATT) notice. You will receive this once the VBON has received and reviewed your application. It will contain instructions on how to schedule your licensure exam.

    1. Go to a Pearson VUE testing center on your testing date. Make sure you bring your ATT.

Once you pass your exam, the Virginia Board of Nursing will issue you your RN license.

If you fail on your first try, you can retake the exam. 

Licensure by Endorsement

Licensed RNs who want to work in Virginia must complete the endorsement process if they meet either of these conditions:

    • You’re licensed in a non-compact state.

    • You’re licensed in a compact state but do not have a multi-state license (you can obtain an MSL through your Nursing Board).

If you qualify for licensure by endorsement, here are the steps:

    1. Complete your application to the Virginia Board of Nursing and pay the $190 non-refundable fee. 

Applicants can use debit or credit cards if they apply online. Those who send in their application through the mail must include a check or money order payable to the Treasurer of Virginia. You must also enclose the checklist instructions with paper applications.

The VBON keeps applications on file for one year. If you do not obtain your license within that period, you will have to reapply.

    1. Complete the fingerprint-based Criminal Background Check (CBC). You can only do this through Fieldprint VAand can only register once you’ve sent your application.

Those who applied online will receive a confirmation receipt. It includes a VBON Fieldprint Code, which you need to register.

    1. Submit CGFNS credentials. Applicants who completed their nursing education outside of the U.S. (except in Canada) must provide their certificate or identification number from the CGFNS. These may be from a CES Report, ICHP Visa Screen, or CFGNS certificate.

    1. Submit Clinical Hours Form. It is only for applicants who graduated from a nursing program outside of Virginia with less than 500 clinical hours. Your employer must complete the form and show you have completed 960 practice hours and an active and clean license.      

    1. License Verification. You can complete this through Nursys if your original state of licensure is in their system. If not, you need to contact your Nursing Board and have them send your license verification to

You can request an Authorization to Practice Letter if you want to work while your VA license is pending by sending a written request to the VBON.

Email your letter to with a subject line stating Endorsement Applicant: Request ATP letter. Attach the following documents:

    • Nursys license verification receipt (or your current license if your original state is not in their system)

    • Fieldprint appointment confirmation receipt

If the VNOB approves your request, you’ll receive your ATP via email in one to two business days.

Step#4: Starting Your New Career: Entering the WORKFORCE

So much time has passed since we began this process, but you must remain aligned with your overall goal.

When you begin exploring options for your first nursing job, you should apply for something that’ll pave the path toward your ideal nursing career.

Be practical about things — look at facilities in your area. Before sending in your application, check openings out. Take the time to find out the required qualifications.

Use all the information you’ve gathered and prepare your application packet. Remember, the more you can tailor it to what a facility wants, the better your chances of being noticed.

But it’s not all about your CV and cover letter. Expect that you’ll be interviewed at some point, so you also need to practice selling yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Virginia 

Now that we’ve covered the four steps to becoming an RN, let’s answer some FAQs to give you a better picture of life as an RN in Virgnia. 

What specialties do most nurses in Virginia pursue?

According to Virginia’s Registered Nurse Workforce report for 2021, most nurses go into acute or critical care in emergency or trauma. 20% of all nurses pursue this specialization. 

The next are as follows:

    • 8% — Surgery / OR / Pre-, Peri-, or Post-Operative

    • 4% — Pediatrics

    • 4% — Cardiology

    • 4% — Obstetrics / Nurse Midwifery

    • 4% — Psychiatric / Mental Health

Where do most Virginia RNs work?

Like most states, you’ll find RNs in Virginia working in hospitals. However, if we break it down further, here is a more accurate demographic:

    • 37% — Hospital (Inpatient Department)

    • 6% — Academic Institution (Teaching or Researching)

    • 6% — Hospital (Outpatient Department)

    • 6% — Hospital (Emergency Department)

    • 5% — Clinic, Primary Care, or Non-Specialty (includes retail or free clinics)

How much do RNs in Virginia earn?

The national median salary for Registered Nurses in the U.S. is $ 82,750. RNs in Virginia earn 7% lower at $76,680.

Note, however, that several factors contribute to your compensation. Your choice of degree is one. Your tenure is another.

Where you work is also a factor. For example, you may prefer to work in Arlington since the median pay is $89,060 annually. However, in Newport News, RNs only earn $75,370 on average.

Blue Ridge Community College
P.O. Box 80 One College Lane Weyers Cave
VA 24486

Brightpoint Community College
13101 Route 1 Chester
VA 23831

Bryant & Stratton College
5030 Kilgore Avenue Hampton VA 23666

Bryant and Stratton College
8141 Hull Street Road North Chesterfield VA 23235

Bryant and Stratton Virginia Beach Campus
301 Centre Pointe Drive Virginia Beach VA 23462

Centra College, Associate Degree Program
905 Lakeside Drive, Suite A Lynchburg VA 24501

Danville Community College
1008 South Main Street Danville VA 24541

Eastern Virginia Career College
10304 Spotsylvania Avenue Suite 400 Fredericksburg
VA 22408

ECPI University, Northern Virginia
Current Active10021 Balls Ford Road #100 Manassas VA 20109

ECPI University - Roanoke
5234 Airport Road Roanoke VA 24012

ECPI University, Newport News
1001 Omni Boulevard, Suite 200 Newport News VA 23606

ECPI University, Richmond
2809 Emerywood Parkway, Suite 400 Richmond
VA 23294

ECPI University, Virginia Beach
5501 Greenwich Road, Suite 100 Virginia Beach
VA 23462

Fortis College - Norfolk
6300 Center Drive #22 Maury Bldg Norfolk
VA 23502

Fortis College
2000 Westmoreand Drive, Suite A Richmond VA 23230

Galen College of Nursing
7300 Beaufont Spring Drive Richmond VA 23225

Germanna Community College
2130 Germanna Highway Locust GroveVA 22508

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
P.O. Box 85622 Richmond VA 23285-5622

Laurel Ridge Community College
173 Skirmisher Lane Middletown VA 22645

Laurel Ridge Community College
480 College Street Warrenton VA 20187

Mountain Empire Community College
3441 Mountain Empire Road Big Stone Gap VA 24219

Mountain Gateway Community College
P.O. Box 1000 Clifton Forge VA 24422

New River Community College
5251 College Drive Dublin VA 24084

Northern Virginia Community College
6699 Springfield Center Drive Springfield VA 22150

Patrick & Henry Community College
645 Patriot Avenue Martinsville VA 24112

Paul D. Camp Community CollegeC
100 North College Drive Franklin VA 23851

Piedmont Virginia Community College
501 College Drive Charlottesville VA 22902

Rappahannock Community College
12745 College Drive
Glenns VA 23149

Riverside College of Health Careers
316 Main Street Newport News VA 23601

Saint Michael College of Allied Health
8305 Richmond Highway, Suite 10A Alexandria
VA 22309

Southside College of Health Sciences
430 Clairmont Court, Suite 200 Colonial Heights
VA 23834

Southside Virginia Community College
- South Boston
820 Bruce Street South Boston VA 24592 

Southside Virginia Community College, Christanna Campus
109 Campus Drive
Alberta VA 23821

Southside Virginia Community College, John H. Daniels Campus
John H. Daniels Campus 200 Daniel Road Keysville
VA 23947

Southwest Virginia Community College
724 Community College Road Cedar Bluff VA 24609

Standard Healthcare Services College
7600 Leesburg Pike, 200 East Falls Church VA 22043

Tidewater Community College
120 Campus Drive Portsmouth VA 23701

Wytheville Community College
1000 East Main Street Wytheville VA 24382

Virginia Highlands Community College
100 VHCC Drive
Abingdon VA 24212

Virginia Peninsula Community College
P.O. Box 9407 Hampton
VA 23670

Virginia Western Community College
Fralin Health Sciences Building 3091 Colonial Avenue SW, HP 320 Roanoke VA 24015

Visit the Virginia BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Virginia

Here’s a list of BSN programs approved by the Virginia BON:

Arizona College of Nursing
3130 Fairview Park Drive Falls Church VA 22042

Arizona College of Nursing -Chesapeake
545 Belaire Avenue Chesapeake VA 23320

Averett University
512 Bridge Street Danville VA 24541

Averett University - Norfolk Campus
6320 N. Center Drive #15 Potomac Building Norfolk VA 23502

Bluefield University
3000 College Avenue Bluefield VA 24605

Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing
8550 Magellan Parkway, Suite 1100 Richmond VA 23227

Centra College
905 Lakeside Drive, Suite A Lynchburg VA 24501

Chamberlain University College of Nursing -Tysons Corner
1951 Kidwell Drive Vienna VA 22182

Eastern Mennonite University
Student Health Center 1200 Park Road Harrisonburg VA 22801

ECPI University
2809 Emerywood Parkway, Suite 400 Program Director Telo Nabee Henrico VA 23294

ECPI University - Manassas
10021 Balls Ford Road, Suite 100 Manassas VA 20109

ECPI University Virginia Beach BSN Program
5501 Greenwich Road Virginia Beach VA 23462

Emory & Henry College
565 Radio Hill Road Marion VA 24354

Ferrum College
Ferrum College 215 Ferrum Mountain Road Ferrum VA 24088

George Mason University
Mailstop 3C4 4400 University Drive Fairfax VA 22030-4444

Hampton University
200 William Harvey Way William Freeman Hall Hampton VA 23668

Hampton University College of Virginia Beach
253 Town Center Drive, Suite 1035 Virginia Beach VA 23462

James Madison University
235 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, MSC 4305 Harrisonburg VA 22807

Liberty University
1971 University Boulevard Lynchburg VA 24515

Liberty University - Accelerated BSN
1971 University Drive Lynchburg VA 24515

Longwood University
201 High Street Stevens Hall, Suite 200 Farmville VA 23909

Marymount University
2807 North Glebe Road Arlington VA 22207-4299

Marymount University-Accelerated BSN
2807 North Glebe Road Arlington VA 22207

Norfolk State University
700 Park Avenue Norfolk VA 23504

Old Dominion University
169 - B ODU Virginia Beach Center 1881 University Drive Virginia Beach VA 23453

Radford University
Box 6964 Radford VA 24142

Radford University Carilion Campus
101 Elm Street, SE Roanoke VA 24013

Radford University, Roanoke Campus
P O Box 6964 Radford VA 24142

Sentara College of Health Sciences-BSN
1441 Crossways Blvd, Suite 105 Chesapeake VA 23320

Shenandoah University - Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing
1460 University Drive Winchester VA 22601

South University
2151 Old Brick Road Glen Allen VA 23060

South University - Virginia Beach
301 Bendix Road Virginia Beach VA 23451

The George Washington University
45085 University Dr., Suite 200 Ashburn VA 20147

Virginia Commonwealth University
Box 980567 Richmond VA 23298-0567

The University of Virginia's College at Wise
1 College Avenue Wise VA 24293

University of Lynchburg
1501 Lakeside Drive Lynchburg VA 24501

University of Virginia
McLeod Hall P.O. Box 800826 Charlottesville VA 22908-0782

Visit the Virginia BON website for updates.

The Wrap Up

There you go! Those are all the steps you need to go through to become a licensed registered nurse in Virginia.

It ranges from having a clear goal to complying with educational requirements. Then it's obtaining your license and joining the workforce. It may seem like a lot, but it's really just one word.


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