All You Need to Know About How to Become an RN in Oregon

How to Become an RN in Oregon featured image

If you’re reading this, then you must be interested in becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) in Oregon…

And we don’t wonder why! 

There’s no better time to become a nurse than now. The number of nursing graduates has increased by 28.83% since 2011, showing how in-demand the role is.

 The world will always need healthcare, and nurses will always be part of it. It’s a stable and respected profession, so you’ll find a lot of benefits if you become part of the industry.

 In Nurse Journal’s list of best states for nurses, Oregon ranks 16th. It also has a higher median annual salary compared to the national average.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? 

But the question is… How do you become one?

Different states have varying requirements, and it can get pretty confusing. 

And that’s where we enter the picture! We’re here to navigate you through the entire process. 

We’ve developed a 4-step guide on how to become an RN in Oregon. 

Here are our main discussion points:

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here we go!

How to Become an RN in Oregon in 4 Steps

We’ll manage your expectations early — this guide doesn't just talk about how to get your nursing license. We’ll get to that eventually, but a successful nursing career requires a lot of thought.

And it usually begins way before your NCLEX schedule. There are things you must do even before getting into nursing school.

Let’s look at the finer points of each step.

How to Become an RN in Oregon Step #1: Use Your Long Term-Goal as Your Anchor

Why are we talking about the future? Aren’t we just getting started?

Yes, but it shouldn’t stop you from imagining your ideal nursing career. A clear direction allows you to have a firm anchor.

Knowing your ideal nursing career will help you make decisions such as what RN program or school to enroll in, whether you want to specialize or not, whether you want to have a management role or not, etc. 

It serves as a compass for all future decisions because your choices should lead you closer to your goal. And, in difficult times, it acts as a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Hospitals commonly pop into people’s heads whenever they think about nurses. And who could blame them? That is where we typically see them.

In Oregon, 55% of RNs work in a hospital setting. The question is, is that what you want?

You should know that there are other possibilities besides hospitals. You can work in a skilled nursing facility or go into public health.

You can continue to be a staff nurse or step into a leadership role one day. You can even earn a higher degree and pursue being an APRN.

The choice is yours, but the earlier you know what it is, the better off you’ll be.

Don’t worry too much though. If your ideal nursing goal changes with time and exposure, you can still find ways to adapt to your new goal.

How to Become an RN in Oregon Step #2: Get a Good Nursing Education

Knowing what you’re gunning for (even if that’s twenty or thirty years in the future) gives you a destination. All you need to do is find the best possible path leading to it.

Here, we look at the factors that have an effect on your nursing education. These include which nursing program is best suited for your career goal and which school you should attend.

Which Nursing Program Should You Pursue?

Before even considering where you want to get your degree, figure out which one you should take.

Registered Nurses must have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Both will qualify you for a nursing license in Oregon. However, one will offer a different experience than the other.

You can use the comparison chart to see each program’s benefits and drawbacks.

Comparison Area

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

How long you’ll stay in school

1.5 to 2 years

3 to 4 years

What the program focuses on

Nursing concepts and clinical practice

Nursing concepts, clinical practice, ethics, public health, management, and others.

How much the tuition is

More affordable

More expensive


More affordable

More expensive

How many are first-time NCLEX passers



What specialties you can take

  • Emergency room RN
  • Oncology RN
  • Pediatric nurse
  • Clinical associate
  • Clinical nurse liaison
  • Clinical research associate
  • Patient coordinator
  • Care coordinator
  • Home care nurse
  • Critical care nurse
  • Nurse case manager
  • Public health nurse
  • Nurse navigator
  • Pediatric nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Emergency room nurse
  • Trauma nurse
  • Staff nurse
  • Nurse education
  • Nurse recruiter
  • Forensic nurse
  • Clinical research nurse
  • Nurse health coach

Impact on long-term career advancement opportunities

Less advancement opportunities

More advancement opportunities

How does it affect salary?

Lower salary

Higher salary

As of 2020, 34% of RNs in Oregon earned ADNs, and 54% have BSNs. No one can tell you what’s best for you — you’ll have to come to this decision on your own. 

If you’re eager to enter the workforce, you can take an ADN and pursue your BSN later. That may sound like a good compromise, but remember that it isn’t the most efficient or cost-effective approach.

There’s no standard formula that gives the correct answer. You’ll need to consider your long-term objectives and available resources.

How to Compare Nursing Schools in Oregon

When you’ve figured out your preferred nursing program, the next step is to determine where you’ll get your degree. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Accreditation: Ensure your nursing school has regional certification from the North Carolina Central University (NCCU). It must also be accredited by the Oregon State Board of Nursing (OSBN). If either is missing, you might encounter problems later on.

  • Program availability: As of 2021, there are 21 nursing schools in Oregon. You can take a BSN program in seven and an ADN in 14. Remember that your program must include a clinical component.

  • Faculty and class ratio: Read up on the instructors in each school. Full-time professors with smaller classes usually translate to more personalized instruction. A school whose faculty also cover various nursing specialties can give you a well-rounded education.

  • NCLEX pass rates: Individual schools keep track of their pass rates. It’s an effective indicator of how ready their graduates are for the licensure exam.

  • Support programs: Whether it's financial aid or a job placement process, a school that can help you beyond academics is a solid choice.

How to Become an RN in Oregon Step #3: Get Your Oregon RN License

Aspiring RNs can earn their licenses by examination or endorsement. Let’s see how each one works.

Licensure by Examination

Oregon has an online licensing portal that candidates use to apply for their licenses. You must fill it out entirely and complete several activities. 

Some of the things you will be asked for include:

  1. A fingerprint-based criminal background check

  2. Proof from your school’s dean that you finished their nursing program

  3. An application fee of $160 

Note that the application fee is different from the testing fee you pay Pearson VUE. You must pay $200 to take the NCLEX (once your application has been accepted).

All your studying comes down to this crucial moment — passing the licensing exam. It’s the final step for you to be able to get your RN license. You need to do it within two years of your graduation. Otherwise, the Board will require you to complete an additional nursing program.

Passing it means you’ve met the Oregon State Board of Nursing's requirements for an RN license and you can now work as an RN! 

In case you don’t pass on your first try, you can still opt to retake the exam. 

Licensure by Endorsement

This process is for RN applicants who have an active RN license in other states or U.S. jurisdictions and can get an Oregon RN license through endorsement. 

You must also submit an application form and complete a criminal background check. Your school must send a copy of your final transcripts directly to OSBN.

What sets it apart is you need to verify your existing nursing license. Most states are part of Nursys, and you can use this system for this step. If your previous state isn’t in it, you will have to reach out to its nursing board.

Applicants who graduated more than five years ago must also prove that they have 960 practice hours as registered nurses. The licensing fee is a bit more expensive at $195.

How to Become an RN in Oregon Step #4: Develop a Strategy to Enter the Workforce

At last, we’ve come to this point. You have your license, and now it’s time to join the workforce.

It pays to do research before sending your application to different facilities. Finding a work setting that matches your preferences and experience can go a long way to help you achieve your career goals.

No one says you have to stay in your first job forever, but it helps to have a strong foundation.

Start by checking out the possible facilities in your area. It can be a hospital, a school, or even a private clinic. Don’t box yourself too much this early.

When you have a shortlist, it’s time to network. Reconnect with former classmates or professors and see if they can offer any additional information about the places you’re considering. Websites are a great source of information, but see if what a facility advertises matches what outsiders say about it.

Shorten your list further using the additional information you’ve gathered. When you finally go through job openings, you don’t have to go through hundreds of facilities.

Here, look at specifics. What positions are available? What qualifications do they require? Can you meet most (if not all) of them?

You’ll need to consider these because the last step is to send your application. Try to avoid sending generic resumes and cover letters.

That’s why you spend so much time on research! It gives you a chance to incorporate the bits and pieces you’ve gathered so you can position yourself in the best possible light.

Doing all these won’t guarantee you’ll get the job, but it will increase your chances.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Oregon

Now that you know the steps to become an RN in Oregon, it’s time to answer some FAQs. 

How much do RNs earn in Oregon?

According to Nursing Journal, Oregon ranks fifth as the best state for nursing salaries. 

The median annual salary is $98,630. That’s 19% higher than the national median.

Remember that you can also use location as a way to have better compensation since rates vary between cities in Oregon. For example, the median in Hillsboro is $101,710, while it’s $92,400 in Grants Pass.

Other factors affecting salary include your experience and degree.

What are the most common work settings for RNs in Oregon?

As of 2020, over half of nurses in Oregon work in hospitals (55%). Other work settings are:

  • Office / Clinic: $12%

  • Home Health / Hospice: $5%

  • Skilled Nursing Facilities / Long Term Care: 3%

  • Ambulatory Urgent / Surgical: 3%

  • Public Health: 2%

  • Other work settings: 20%

How often do RNs in Oregon need to renew their licenses?

An RN license in Oregon is valid for two years. It expires on your birthday. Your birth year determines whether you need to undergo renewal in an odd or even-numbered year.

Helpful Resources for Oregon RNs

List of Associate Degree Programs (ADNs) in Oregon

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

Clatsop Community College
1651 Lexington Avenue
Astoria, OR 97103
County: Clatsop
(503) 338-2436

Central Oregon Community College
2600NW College Way
Bend, OR 97703
County: Deschutes
(541) 383-7417

Southwestern Oregon Community College
1988 Newmark Avenue
Coos Bay, OR 97420
County: Coos
(541) 888-7342

Lane Community College
4000 East 30th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97405
County: Lane
(541) 463-5753

Rogue Community College
3345 Redwood Highway
Grants Pass, OR 97527
County: Josephine
(541) 956-7013

Mt Hood Community College
26000 Southeast Stark Street
Gresham, OR 97030
County: Multnomah
(503) 491-6701

Klamath Community College
7390 South 6th Street
Klamath Falls, OR 97603
County: Klamath
(541) 880-2223

Linn-Benton Community College
300 Mullins Drive
Lebanon, OR 97355
County: Linn
(541) 917-4519

Clackamas Community College - Harmony Campus
7738 SE Harmony Road
Milwaukie, OR 97222
County: Clackamas
(503) 594-0654

Oregon Coast Community College
400 Southeast College Way
Newport, OR 97366
County: Lincoln
(541) 867-8513

Treasure Valley Community College
650 College Boulevard
Ontario, OR 97914
County: Malheur
(541) 881-5944

Blue Mountain Community College
2411 Northwest Cardin Avenue
PO BOX 100
Pendleton, OR 97801
County: Umatilla
(541) 278-5882

Portland Community College
12000 Southwest 49th Street
PO BOX 19000
Portland, OR 97219
County: Multnomah
(971) 722-4526

Sumner College RN
Cascade Station Campus
8338 NE Alderwood, Suite 100
Portland, OR 97220
County: Multnomah
(503) 972-6230

Umpqua Community College
1140 College Road
PO BOX 967
Roseburg, OR 97470
County: Douglas
(541) 440-7879

Chemeketa Community College
4000 Lancaster Drive NE
PO BOX 14007
Salem, OR 97305
County: Marion
(503) 399-5058

Columbia Gorge Community College
400 E Scenic Drive
The Dalles, OR 97058
County: Wasco

Visit the Oregon BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Oregon

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

OHSU at Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Boulevard
Ashland, OR 97520
County: Jackson
(541) 552-8453

Bushnell University
828 E 11th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401
County: Lane

OHSU at Oregon Institute of Technology
3201 Campus Drive
Klamath Falls, OR 97601
County: Klamath

OHSU at Eastern Oregon University
1 University Boulevard
La Grande, OR 97850
County: Union
(541) 962-3383

OHSU at Western Oregon University
345 North Monmouth Avenue
Monmouth, OR 97361
County: Polk
(503) 838-8124

George Fox University
414 North Meridian Street,
Suite 6273
Newberg, OR 97132
County: Yamhill
(503) 554-2951

Concordia University St Paul
11703 NE Glenn Widing Drive
Portland, OR 97220
County: Multnomah

Linfield University
2900 NE 132nd Ave
Portland, OR 97230
County: Multnomah

Linfield University
2900 NE 132nd Ave
Portland, OR 97230
County: Multnomah

OHSU Oregon Health & Science University
3455 SW U.S. Veterans Hospital Road (SN-ADM)
Portland, OR 97239
County: Multnomah

University of Portland School of Nursing
5000 N. Willamette Boulevard
Portland, OR 97203
County: Multnomah
(503) 943-8146

Walla Walla University School of Nursing
10345 SE Market Street
Portland, OR 97216
County: Multnomah

Warner Pacific University
2219 SE 68th Avenue
Portland, OR 97215
County: Multnomah

In Conclusion

The path to becoming an RN in Oregon can seem overwhelming, but keeping these four steps in mind may help you in your journey.

You can use it as a roadmap to help you navigate the different phases you’ll go through. However, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to put in the work.

We’re sure you can do it. Good luck!

Visit the Oregon BON website for updates.

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