How to Become an RN in Illinois (A Complete 2023 Guide)

How to Become an RN in Illinois (A Complete Guide)

Calling everyone in Illinois that wants to be an RN…

We have the complete 2023 guide on how to do just that. 

This guide is like a roadmap that will make the journey easier to navigate. To be sure, though, it will take a lot of time, dedication, and even investment. 

But if you are willing, then let’s dive into the steps on how to become an RN in Illinois. 

The 5 Steps to Becoming an RN in Illinois 

These are the 5 steps to becoming an RN in Illinois:

  1. Define your long-term nursing goal
  2. Decide which nursing program to complete
  3. Find the best nursing school for you
  4. Apply for your Illinois RN license
  5. Join the nursing workforce in Illinois

Let’s get into the details. 

Step 1: Define Your Long-Term Nursing Goal

The first thing you need is a clear idea of what kind of nursing career you want. 

Do you see yourself in a hospital setting forever? Or maybe you want to help in a nursing home or the military? 

Another thing to think about is what role you’d like in the future. Yes, 66% of nurses provide direct patient care, but you can also be a nurse manager, administrator, or patient care coordinator. Some nurses even become part of a school’s faculty. 

Hold up. 

Why is this step important?

Because it affects your decision of which nursing program to complete. 

Step 2: Decide Which Nursing Program to Complete

This is when you need to start putting in the work.

You’re required to complete a board-approved nursing program before you can apply for a nursing license. 

Now, there are 2 kinds of degrees you can pursue — Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

The degree you choose will affect the opportunities available to you in the future. This is also why you need to know which path you want to go. 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the 2 degrees:

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Program Duration:18 to 24 months26 to 48 months
Curriculum Focus:Nursing theory
Clinical practice
Nursing theory
Clinical practice
Public Health
NCLEX Pass Rates*:84.1%88.6%
Program Cost:$6k-40k$40k-$200k
Career Advancement Opportunities:LessMore
Potential Career Paths:Home care nurse
Patient coordinator
Care coordinator
Clinical associate
Pediatric nurse
Clinical nurse liaison
Clinical research associate
Oncology RN
Emergency room RN
Infection preventionist
Hospital staff nurse
Emergency room nurse
Trauma nurse
Psychiatric nurse
Charge nurse
Pediatric nurse
Nurse navigator
Public health nurse
Nurse case manager
Critical care nurse
Nurse educator
Nurse recruiter
Forensic nurse
Nurse health coach
Average Salary (as of 2023):$46,453/annual$69,127/annual

* Based on NCSBN’s 2020 NCLEX Exam Statistics. These show the pass rates specifically for Illinois

Of course, the degree you choose should lead you to your career goal, but don’t forget to consider your resources. 

Step 3: Find the Best Nursing School for You

Now that you know which degree to get, it’s time to look for a nursing school. 

The idea of “best” is fluid — you’ll have to choose based on your needs and preferences. However, there are several areas you may want to consider:

  • Approved: You have to make sure that the school you go to is approved by the State Board of Nursing. If not, then you will not be qualified to take the NCLEX exam. 
  • Accreditation: The National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education are premiere institutions providing certification. Being accredited by these boosts a school’s reputation and credibility.
  • Delivery Options: Some schools offer their programs online. Some deliver their content in a classroom setting, while others use a blended approach. Going with a non-traditional approach may provide more flexibility.
  • Class Size: Teacher-student ratio is an advantage if you need support. Instructors who handle big classes are less likely to give individualized assistance to their students.
  • Availability of Financial Aid: Regardless of whether you take an ADN or a BSN, financial support is always a good thing.
  • NCLEX Pass Rates: Individual schools have pass rates. It’s indicative of how well it prepares its students for the licensing test.
  • Placement Assistance: Although there are a lot of nursing opportunities in Illinois, a school offering a placement program can ease your stress since they have an established network of facilities.

Keep all these things in mind as you look for the best nursing school for YOU. 

Step 4: Apply for Your Illinois RN License

If you successfully finish your degree, it’s time to apply for your RN license. 

In Illinois, you can either apply through examination or endorsement. 

Let’s look into both. 

Licensure by Examination

Applicants who wish to get their license through examination have to apply with Continental Testing Services and Pearson Vue. 

Here are the steps:

Note: You have 3 years from the date of your application to pass the NCLEX. If you don’t, you must submit a new application and pay all fees again.

  • Go to Pearson VUE and register for the NCLEX. You have to pay a $200 testing fee directly to them.
  • Gather the following documents:
    • Certificate of Education
      • In-state applicants can use an official transcript, official student roster, or form ED-NUR.
      • Out-of-state applicants can only submit form ED-NUR or an official transcript.
      • Foreign-educated applicants must have their records certified by CGFNS or ERES.
    • Proof of Fingerprinting from a licensed Live Scan Fingerprint Vendor. You can find a list of providers on the IDFPR’s website.
      • Out-of-state applicants must provide a completed OOS-FP form
  • Submit these documents to the CTS office at: Continental Testing Services Inc. 547 LaGrange Road, P.O. Box 100, LaGrange, IL 60525
  • Once CTS reviews and accepts your documents, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson Vue through your email. Note: make sure to keep this as it contains your NCLEX exam schedule and other instructions.
  • Take and pass the NCLEX exam. Note: you’ll get your results in 7 to 10 days through an Official Results Letter sent by CTS. Again, keep the letter as instructions on how to apply for your license are in there. 
  • Follow the application instructions from the Official Results Letter and get your license!

And there you have it!

You now have an RN license. 


But say, what if you fail the NCLEX exam? 

The NCSBN sends a Candidate Performance Report (CPR) to applicants who do not pass the NCLEX. You can use it for a retake at least 45 days after.

That said, you still need to reapply to CTS and submit the necessary documents to get another ATT. You will have to pay the testing fee again, too. 

Licensure by Endorsement

Only RNs practicing in other states who wish to work in Illinois can get their license through endorsement. 

Here are the steps: 

  • Complete the online application form and pay the $50 fee. Note: if you want to start working before your permanent license is issued, you can spend $75 and complete a Temporary Nursing Permit form to have a temporary license.
  • Verify your license through Nursys. If your state is not in their system, you must contact your Board of Nursing.
  • Prepare the following:
    • Proof of education
      • For domestic applicants
        • An ED-NUR signed by your school’s Dean or the Director of your nursing program. It must contain your school’s seal.
        • A copy of your official transcript.
      • For foreign applicants
        • ERES or CGFNS certification
        • Your VisaScreen Program Certificate and Certificate of Foreign Licensure if the above mentioned are not available
    • Your fingerprint Transaction Control Number (TCN) from your receipt.
    • Temporary Military Permit (if applicable)
    • Personal history including any criminal history such as felony convictions. It must also contain information if any of the following is applicable:
      • Dishonorable discharge from the military
      • Health conditions that may affect your work. These include diagnosed illnesses
      • Prior denial of a professional license
      • Failing to live up to child support commitments
      • Defaults on student loans or taxes

Step 5: Join the Nursing Workforce in Illinois

The employment settings of Registered Nurses in Illinois are as follows:

  • 52% — Hospitals / Acute care settings
  • 11% — Ambulatory care facilities, such as outpatient clients, private practices, and doctors’ offices
  • 9% — Nursing homes, extended care, and assisted living facilities 
  • 4% — Schools 

Regardless of your preferred work setting, here are some tips to successfully enter the workforce:

  • Research your community — There are many opportunities for RNs across several facilities. It’s best to shortlist these based on your interests, goals, and experience.
  • Explore your network — reach out to former classmates, professors, friends, and family members and see if they can offer any information about the establishments you’re eyeing. You can even ask your healthcare provider. 
  • Educate yourself — Go through these facilities’ websites and check out what openings are available. See which ones fit your profile best.
  • Apply — Prepare all the necessary documents. Make sure you send in a strong cover letter besides your CV.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we go, let’s answer some of the most common questions asked about RNs in Illinois.

How much do RNs earn in Illinois?

The average salary for Registered Nurses in Illinois is $78,260. That’s 5% lower than the national average of $82,750.

Your nursing program will come into play — BSN nurses typically earn more than those with ADNs.

How often do I need to renew my RN license in Illinois?

You need to renew your license biennially. To qualify, you must complete 20 Continuing Education hours, one of which must be on sexual harassment.

Is Illinois part of the NLC?

No. Although Illinois has pending legislation, it is not officially part of the NLC. Nurses from other states who want to practice in Illinois must secure their license by endorsement.

What is the growth outlook for RNs in Illinois?

Illinois was already experiencing a nursing shortage even before the pandemic. The nursing industry expects to see a 12.44% increase in job opportunities. 

That’s 9,260 RN openings each year. So you should definitely consider this state if you want to become a nurse.

Helpful Resources for Illinois RNs

List of Associate Degree Programs (ADNs) in Illinois

Here’s a list of ADN programs approved by the Illinois BON:

Adonis College of Nursing/ (BestMed)
1313 Sibley Blvd, Dolton, IL 60419, United States
+1 888-308-3892

Ambria College of Nursing
5210 Trillium Blvd, Hoffman Estates, IL 60192, United States
+1 847-397-0300

Americare Technical School
505 Busse Hwy, Park Ridge, IL 60068, United States
+1 847-825-8773

Aquarius Institute
1011 E Touhy Ave Ste 335, Des Plaines, IL 60018, United States
+1 847-296-8870

ATS Institute of Technology
25 E Washington St Ste 200, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
+1 312-214-2000

CAAN, Coalition of African American Nurses, Inc.
4747 Lincoln Mall Dr Suite 420, Matteson, IL 60443

CALC Institute of Technology

First Step to Excellence Academy
1639 East 87th Street Chicago, IL 60617

Genesis Healthcare Institute
25 Alexander Cir # 3, Romeoville, IL 60446, United States
+1 815-439-3970

Great Paragon
Healthcare, Inc.
TOUHY BUILDING, 2640 W Touhy Ave, Chicago, IL 60645, United States
+1 773-274-7694

Illinois College of Nursing
55 22nd St #200, Lombard, IL 60148, United States
+1 630-495-7968

New Lake College
1300 Greenbrook Blvd #102, Hanover Park, IL 60133, United States
+1 888-388-1759

Northshore College
Northwest Suburbs, Chicagoland Township, 1400 S Wolf Rd Suite 104, Wheeling, IL 60090, United States
+1 847-850-5700

Scott School of Careers
W 159th St, Markham, IL 60428, United States
+1 708-566-4237

State Career College
3575 Grand Avenue, Suite C #1, 2, 3, Gurnee, IL 60031, United States
+1 847-693-3838

Verve College
2625 Butterfield Rd Suite 102E, Oak Brook, IL 60523, United States
+1 630-705-9999

Visit the Illinois BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Illinois

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

Ambria College of Nursing
210 Trillium Blvd, Hoffman Estates, IL 60192, United States
+1 847-397-0300

Black Hawk College
6600 34th Ave, Moline, IL 61265, United States
+1 309-796-5000

CAAN, Coalition of African American Nurses, Inc.
4747 Lincoln Mall Dr Suite 420, Matteson, IL 60443

Carl Sandburg College
2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd, Galesburg, IL 61401, United States
+1 309-344-2518

CCC-School of Nursing at Malcolm X
1900 W. Jackson
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 850-7000

College of DuPage
425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
(630) 942-2800 (Main)
(630) 942-3000 (Student Services)

College of Lake County
19351 W Washington St, Grayslake, IL 60030, United States
+1 847-543-2000

Danville Area Community College
2000 E Main St Ste 4, Danville, IL 61832, United States
+1 217-443-3222

Elgin Community College
1700 Spartan Dr, Elgin, IL 60123, United States
+1 847-697-1000

Heartland Community College
1500 W Raab Rd, Normal, IL 61761, United States
+1 309-268-8000

Highland Community College
606 W Main St, Highland, KS 66035, United States
+1 785-442-6000

Illinois Central College
1 College Dr, East Peoria, IL 61635, United States
+1 309-694-5422

IL Eastern Community College-AD
233 East Chestnut Street, Olney, IL 62450

Illinois Valley Community College
815 N Orlando Smith St, Oglesby, IL 61348, United States
+1 815-224-2720

Instituto College
2520 S. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 890-0055

John A Logan College
700 Logan College Dr, Carterville, IL 62918, United States
+1 618-985-2828

John Wood Community College
1301 S 48th St, Quincy, IL 62305, United States
+1 217-224-6500

Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet IL, 60431

Kankakee Community College
100 College Drive, Kankakee, IL 60901, United States
+1 815-802-8100

Kaskaskia College
27210 College Rd, Centralia, IL 62801, United States
+1 618-545-3000

Kishwaukee College
21193 Malta Rd, Malta, IL 60150, United States
+1 815-825-2086

Lake Land College
5001 Lake Land Blvd, Mattoon, IL 61938, United States
+1 217-234-5253

Lewis & Clark Community College
5800 Godfrey Rd, Godfrey, IL 62035, United States
+1 618-468-7000

Lincoln Land Community College
5250 Shepherd Rd, Springfield, IL 62703, United States
+1 217-786-2200

McHenry County College
8900 Northwest Hwy #14, Crystal Lake, IL 60012, United States
+1 815-455-3700

Morraine Valley Community College
Southwest Suburbs, 9000 College Pkwy, Palos Hills, IL 60465, United States
+1 708-974-4300

Morton College
3801 S Central Ave, Cicero, IL 60804, United States
+1 708-656-8000

Northwestern College
101 7th Street SW Orange City, IA 51041

Oakton Community College
1600 Golf Rd, Des Plaines, IL 60016, United States
+1 847-635-1600

Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave, Champaign, IL 61821, United States
+1 217-351-2200

Prairie State College
202 S Halsted St, Chicago Heights, IL 60411, United States
+1 708-709-3500

Rasmussen College
385 Douglas Ave Suite #1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, United States
+1 407-635-8200

Rend Lake College
468 North Ken Gray Pkwy, Ina, IL 62846, United States
+1 618-437-5321

Richland Community College
1 College Park, Decatur, IL 62521, United States
+1 217-875-7200

Rock Valley College
3301 N Mulford Rd, Rockford, IL 61114, United States
+1 815-921-7821

Sauk Valley College
173 IL-2, Dixon, IL 61021, United States
+1 815-288-5511

Shawnee Community College
8364 Shawnee College Rd, Ullin, IL 62992, United States
Phone: +1 618-634-3200

South Suburban College
15800 State St, South Holland, IL 60473, United States
+1 708-596-2000

Southeastern Illinois College
3575 College Rd, Harrisburg, IL 62946, United States
+1 618-252-5400

Southwestern Illinois College Belleville
2500 Carlyle Ave, Belleville, IL 62221, United States
+1 618-235-2700

Spoon River College
Buckheart Township, IL 61520, United States
+1 309-647-4645

Triton Community College
2000 5th Ave, River Grove, IL 60171, United States
+1 708-456-0300

Waubonsee Community College
4S783 IL-47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554, United States
+1 630-466-7900

William Rainey Harper College
1200 W Algonquin Rd, Palatine, IL 60067, United States
+1 847-925-6000

Visit the Illinois BON website for updates.

In Conclusion

And there you go! All you need to know about how to become an RN in Illinois.

Remember, as you go through these 5 steps, you’ll need to put in a lot of time, dedication, and investment. But once you get hold of your RN license, it will all be worth it. 

Good luck!

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