How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania – Everything You Need to Know

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania featured image

If you’re reading this, you are either mildly curious, very interested, or fully determined to become an RN.

Whatever level of determination you have right now, we’re so excited to tell you that we think becoming an RN in Pennsylvania is a great idea! 

Did you know that there is a nursing shortage? 

Pennsylvania expects a 30% increase in its nursing shortage within three years. Although this is a sad reality, it also assures you of a lot of job opportunities because of the vacancies.

The benefits of becoming a nurse go beyond job stability though. Pennsylvania hospitals are exploring flexible scheduling and tuition reimbursement programs to attract more talent. It could mean better work conditions for new RNs.

From a more sentimental perspective, nursing allows you to form connections with people and potentially impact their lives significantly. 

Pennsylvania may not be in the top ten states for nurses, but it still outranks 31 others. It’s not a bad option at all! 

If you’re still hesitant to become an RN because the process seems overwhelming, we’re here to help simplify the process for you.

We’ve put together a guide that walks you through how to become an RN in Pennsylvania. We’ll also answer some important questions.

So, if you’re ready… Let’s begin!

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania in 5 Steps

Getting that Pennsylvania RN license may seem like a long way off, with a hundred hurdles in between… but we’re confident you’ll get it! 

Don’t get overwhelmed — instead, use this guide to navigate the various challenges along the way.

We’ll explore the following areas:

Let’s see what lessons lie within each step.

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania Step#1: The Definition of Success

It all begins with your end goal. What would you consider a successful nursing career? 

Do you see yourself working in a hospital as a staff nurse providing direct patient care? Or do you see yourself in a different setting doing a different role?

Most people aren’t aware of how many career options nursing can offer outside of what’s traditional. You can work in the Emergency Department or pediatrics. But you can also do case management or join the academe. Nursing homes, out-patient clinics, and doctor’s offices may also be other options you can look into.

A clear career path gives you a target. It means you’ve got a compass for all steps that follow.

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania Step#2: The Pre-College Prep

It may surprise some, but nursing school isn’t where you begin preparing for your license. As early as high school, there are several things you can do to give you an advantage. 

There are two main areas where you can focus your efforts: Academics and Extracurriculars. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Get an Advantage Through Academics

Nursing schools usually have pre-requisite subjects, and some, unsurprisingly, lean towards the sciences like biology and chemistry. However, other classes are an advantage. 

Here are the different subjects you can take in preparation for nursing school:


Number of Years




  • Must include Algebra and Geometry

3 to 4


  • Must include Biology and Chemistry, preferably with labs
  • Physics and Computer Science are a plus

2 to 4

Social Studies

3 to 4

Foreign Language


But it’s not just about the subjects you take. It’s also ensuring you do well. Remember, a higher GPA increases your chances of getting into your preferred nursing school.

Get an Advantage Through Extracurriculars

These days, it is no longer just about the grades. What helps students stand out is their extracurricular activities.

Devoting time to this area helps you beef up college applications and provides a real-life experience that you can’t get out of textbooks.

Aspiring nurses can look into specific activities that boost their knowledge about the role and industry. You can participate in blood drives or volunteer in hospitals.

Ask a facility if they’ll allow you to shadow one of their nurses. That’ll give you a front-row seat to what each day is for them. You may be surprised by what you find, leading to many realizations.

Another option is to join student organizations. HOSA-Future Health Professionals is an excellent example.

It exposes you to the healthcare profession through conferences and provides multiple resources to aspiring nurses. You can even join competitions.

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania Step#3: The Nursing Program

As you near your graduation, you need to start thinking about your nursing degree. Two programs qualify you for a Pennsylvania RN license.

You can either complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Think of them as two potential routes heading to one destination.

Like varying routes, each gives you diverging experience and may have different impacts on your nursing journey.

Take a look at how they compare on short-term and long-term factors:


Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

How long do you stay in school?

18 to 24 months

36 to 48 months

What does your program focus on?

  • Nursing theory
  • Clinical practice
  • Nursing theory
  • Clinical practice
  • Management
  • Ethics
  • Public Health
  • Communication

How much do you spend for tuition?




More affordable

More expensive

How many graduates pass the NCLEX on the first try?






In which areas can you practice?

  • Pediatrics
  • Intensive Care
  • ER
  • Mental Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Intensive Care
  • ER
  • Mental Health
  • Public Health
  • Case Management
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Teaching
  • Research

How does it affect career advancement opportunities?



How much will I earn?



It does tie back to your definition of a successful nursing career.

For example, if you foresee yourself in a leadership role someday, a BSN may be the better option since it’ll be a requirement. If you’re an ADN-RN who wants a leadership role, you’ll have to go back to school and take a bridge program to get your baccalaureate. 

It’s still possible, but you’ll have to spend on tuition again and take time off from work. You’ll have to think about whether it’s better to complete a BSN in the first place.

At the end of the day, though, you’ll have to consider your own goals and available resources. 

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania Step#4: The Nursing School

Once you’ve settled on a nursing program, it’s time to find your nursing school. It prepares you for the NCLEX, so choosing which to attend is a crucial decision point. 

Unfortunately, if you search for the best nursing schools in Pennsylvania, you’ll find many pages containing many schools ranked in various orders. You can use these as guides, but ultimately, you must decide on the definition of best.

After all, what works for you may not work for everyone, and vice-versa. Here are some considerations to help you narrow down your options.

One area to explore is its reputation. Three factors contribute to it:

  • Accreditation: Does the school have regional or national accreditation? Is it approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing? Institutions with multiple accreditations typically are in good standing with future employers.

You can find a list of approved RN programs here (for both ADN and BSN). 

  • Curriculum: Check out the individual courses within the curriculum. Does it include solid laboratory and clinical experience? 
  • Quality Instructors: You’d want to go to a school that has teachers with strong nursing backgrounds that covers a wide array of specialties.
  • NCLEX Pass Rates: These indicate how well a school prepares its graduates for the licensing exam.

More than reputation, you also need to look at practicalities. These include:

  • Delivery options: Does the school offer flexibility regarding learning channels or schedules? Some programs offer online programs or night classes.
  • Student support programs: These can range from the possibility of financial aid to having clinical partnerships with health facilities. 

How to Become an RN in Pennsylvania Step#5: The RN License

And it all comes down to this — getting your Pennsylvania RN license. Aspiring nurses can earn it either through examination or endorsement.

It’s crucial to know which process to use.

Licensure by Examination

If you’ve never had an RN license, it’s the path for you.

You can submit your application before you graduate, but note that the Board won’t begin processing it until your school sends them a notice of your program completion. However, it can cut down the time needed to get your license.

You’ll need to undergo a criminal history record check (CHRC) from your current state of residence. For those who completed schooling in Pennsylvania, the CHRC gets generated automatically along with your application. You’ll pay for it on top of the $95 application fee.

For applicants who lived or completed school in another state, you’ll need to submit official state CHRCs from every place you lived within the last ten years. You need to get all CHRCs within 90 days of your license application. The application fee for out-of-state candidates is $115.

You’ll also need to register with Pearson VUE, which administers the NCLEX in Pennsylvania. It costs $200.

Once the Board reviews and accepts your application, you’ll receive an Authorization to Test (ATT). Make sure to keep this because it contains instructions on scheduling your exam.

Unlike other states, you need to complete Continuing Education hours before getting your license. You must complete three contact hours on child abuse recognition and reporting.

Licensure by Endorsement

Those who already have RN licenses and would like to work in Pennsylvania must complete the licensure by endorsement process. 

The process is relatively similar to the examination route in these aspects:

  • You need to get a criminal history record check (CHRC) from your state of residence and all other locations you’ve lived or worked in within the last ten years.
  • The Board must receive the official transcripts from the school that qualified you for an RN license.
  • You must earn three contact hours on child abuse recognition and reporting.

However, make sure that you note these differences:

  • The application fee is $120
  • You must verify your license from each state you’ve worked. If your previous state is linked to Nursys, you can pay the fee to have the Board access your verification of licensure. If it isn’t, you’ll have to reach out to that state’s Nursing Board.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Ohio

Well done! We’ve covered a lot so far already. Now, we’ll move on to the answers of some FAQs.

How often do you need to renew your Pennsylvania RN License?

You need to renew your RN license in Pennsylvania biennially. You must earn 30 hours of Continuing Education to qualify for renewal. 

Two hours must be a Board-approved child abuse recognition and reporting course.

What work settings are popular in Pennsylvania for RNs?

Like most states, RNs in Pennsylvania do gravitate towards the hospital setting. According to 55% of the population are in this environment.

Next to it are nursing homes, extended care, and assisted living facilities. Combined, 9% of RNs chose them.

At 7% are ambulatory care and home health. Other work settings, like school health services, the academe, and insurance companies have 3% each.

How much can I expect to earn as an RN in Pennsylvania?

Depending on where you live in Pennsylvania, your annual salary can range from $75,110 (Harrisburg) to $81,860 (Philadelphia). Besides your location,  your experience and degree may also impact your compensation.

On average, the median annual salary for Pennsylvania is $76,000. It’s 8% lower than the national median.

Allegany College of Maryland Nursing Program Bedford County
- Main Campus
195 Penn Knoll Road EVERETT, PA 15537

Bucks County Community College Associate Degree
275 Swamp Road NEWTOWN, PA 18940-4106

Butler County Community College Dept of Nursing & Allied Health
107 College Drive BUTLER, PA 16002
724-287-8711, Ext. 8275

Clarion University, College of Health and Human Services Department of Nursing
1801 West First Street OIL CITY, PA 16301
814-676-6591, Ext. 1258

Community College of Allegheny County Dept of Nursing 800 Allegheny Avenue PITTSBURGH, PA 15233

Community College of Beaver County Dept of Nursing & Allied Health
1 Campus Drive MONACA, PA 15061

Community College of Philadelphia Dept of Nursing 1700 Spring Garden Street PHILADELPHIA, PA 19130

Delaware County Community College Dept of Allied Health & Nursing 901 S. Media Line Road MEDIA, PA 19063-1094

Harcum College
Nursing Program
750 Montgomery Avenue BRYN MAWR, PA 19010-3476

Harrisburg Area Community College Nursing Program One HACC Drive HARRISBURG, PA 17110-2999

Jersey College
700 Quincy Avenue SCRANTON, PA 18510

Lackawanna College
Nursing Program
501 Vine Street SCRANTON, PA 18509
570-961-6100, Ext. 1044

Lehigh Carbon Community College Associate Degree 4525 Education Park Drive SCHNECKSVILLE, PA 18078

Lock Haven University, Clearfield Campus Nursing 201 University Drive Clearfield Campus CLEARFIELD, PA 16830

Luzerne County Community College Nursing Program Nursing Department Francis S and Mary Gill Carrozz NANTICOKE, PA 18634

Mercyhurst University Associate in Science Nursing 501 East 38th Street ERIE, PA 16546

Montgomery County Community College
340 Dekalb Pike BLUE BELL, PA 19422-0769

Mount Aloysius College Division of Nursing
7373 Admiral Peary Highway CRESSON, PA 16630
814-886-6399, Ext. 6399

Northampton Community College Nursing Program 3835 Green Pond Road BETHLEHEM, PA 18020
610-861-5300, Ext. 5376

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

Pennsylvania College of Technology
One College Avenue WILLIAMSPORT, PA 17701

Westmoreland County Community College  
145 Pavilion Lane YOUNGWOOD, PA 15695-1895

Pittsburgh Technical College ASN Nursing Program
1111 McKee Road OAKDALE, PA 15071

Reading Area Community College Nursing Program
10 south second street READING, PA 19603
610-372-4721, Ext. 6226

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford Nursing Program 300 Campus Drive BRADFORD, PA 16701

Visit the Pennsylvania BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Pennsylvania

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

Alvernia University BSN Program
400 Saint Bernardine St. READING, PA 19607

Bloomsburg University Dept of Nursing
400 E. 2nd Street BLOOMSBURG, PA 17815

Cabrini University Department of Nursing
610 King of Prussia Road RADNOR, PA 19087

Carlow University Department of Nursing
3333 Fifth Avenue PITTSBURGH, PA 15213

Cedar Crest College
School of Nursing
100 College Drive ALLENTOWN, PA 18104

Clarion University College of Health & Sciences Department of Nursing 840 Wood Street CLARION, PA 16214-1232

DeSales University
Division of Nursing
2755 Station Avenue CENTER VALLEY, PA 18034
610-282-1100, Ext. 1285

) Drexel University College of Nursing & Health Professions Health Sciences Building, Room 11E54 60 N. 36th St PHILADELPHIA, PA 19104

Duquesne University School of Nursing
600 Forbes Avenue PITTSBURGH, PA 15282

East Stroudsburg University Dept of Nursing
200 Prospect Street EAST STROUDSBURG, PA 18301-2999

Eastern University School
of Nursing
1300 Eagle Road WAYNE, PA 19087

Edinboro University of PA Dept of Nursing Edinboro Univerity of PA EDINBORO, PA 16444

Gannon University Villa Maria School of Nursing
109 University Square Moroski Building ERIE, PA 16541

Gwynedd Mercy University Frances Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions
1325 Sumneytown Pike, PO Box 901 GWYNEDD VALLEY, PA 19437-0901
215-646-7300, Ext. 21116

Holy Family University Nursing Program
9801 Frankford Avenue PHILADELPHIA, PA 19114-2009

Immaculata University Nursing Dept
1145 King Road MALVERN, PA 19345-0691

Indiana University of Pennsylvania Dept of Nursing & Allied Health Professions
1011 South Drive INDIANA, PA 15705

Jefferson College of Nursing 901 Walnut Street PHILADELPHIA, PA 19107-5587

La Salle University School of Nursing & Health Sciences 1900 W. Olney Ave. PHILADELPHIA, PA 19141

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Dept
of Nursing
1570 Baltimore Pike LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, PA 19352

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Nursing Program
South Academy St MANSFIELD, PA 16933

Marywood University Dept of Nursing
2300 Adams Ave SCRANTON, PA 18509
570-348-6211, Ext. 2455

Mercyhurst University BSN Nursing Program
501 E 38th Street ERIE, PA 16546

Messiah University Department of Nursing
One University Avenue Suite 3012 MECHANICSBURG, PA 17055

Misericordia University
Dept of Nursing
301 Lake Street DALLAS, PA 18612

Moravian University
Nursing Program
1200 Main Street BETHLEHEM, PA 18018

Mount Aloysius College; (RN BSN) Division of Nursing 7373 Admiral Peary Highway CRESSON, PA 16630

Neumann University The School of Nursing and Health Sciences
One Neumann Drive ASTON, PA 19014

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Nursing Department
850 Greenfield Road LANCASTER, PA 17601

Pennsylvania College of Technology BSN Nursing Program
One College Avenue WILLLIAMSPORT, PA 17701

Pennsylvania State University Ross & Carol Nese College of Nursing
201 Nursing Sciences Building UNIVERSITY PARK, PA 16802

Robert Morris University School of Nursing &
Health Sciences
6001 University Blvd MOON TWP, PA 15108

Saint Francis University School of Health Science & Education
P. O. Box 600 LORETTO, PA 15940-0600

Seton Hill University; Nursing Program Daniel J. Wukich School of Nursing
1 Seton Hill Drive GREENSBURG, PA 15601

Temple University College of Public Health
3307 N Broad St. PHILADELPHIA, PA 19140

The University of Scranton Dept of Nursing
800 Linden Street SCRANTON, PA 18510-4595

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
34th and Walnut Streets PHILADELPHIA, PA 19104-4217

University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing
350 Victoria Building PITTSBURGH, PA 15261

Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College
of Nursing
800 Lancaster Avenue VILLANOVA, PA 19085-1690
610-519-4900, Ext. 4923

Waynesburg University
Dept of Nursing
51 West College Street WAYNESBURG, PA 15370

West Chester University Dept of Nursing
155 University Avenue WEST CHESTER, PA 19383

York College of Pennsylvania Stabler Dept of Nursing
441 Country Club Road YORK, PA 17403-3651
717-815-1243, Ext. 1243

Widener University School
of Nursing
One University Place CHESTER, PA 19013-5792

Wilkes University Dept
of Nursing
84 W. South Street WILKES BARRE, PA 18766

Wilson College 1015 Philadelphia Avenue CHAMBERSBURG, PA 17201

Visit the Pennsylvania BON website for updates.

In Conclusion

Did that seem like a lot? That’s because it is! 

But just because the road to nursing isn’t quick and easy doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. We’ve given you a guide that walks you through the entire process.

We hope this will help you reach your goal.

Now, it’s all up to you. Go for it!

Posts You May Like

September 28, 2023

September 27, 2023

September 27, 2023

September 26, 2023

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch

0 of 350