How to Become an RN in Washington, DC – A Simple Guide

How to Become an RN in Washington, DC - A Simple Guide

If you plan on becoming a registered nurse in Washington, DC, you’ve come to the right place.

There’s a lot of information out there about how to become an RN, but it can get pretty confusing because the exact process may differ per state. 

But don’t worry! In this article, we’ll give you a really simple and organized guide on how to become an RN in Washington, DC. 

We’ll also answer some common questions, such as: 

  • What are the job opportunities for an RN in Washington, DC?
  • What is the average salary of an RN in Washington, DC?
  • How can I upgrade my license?
  • When can I renew my license?
  • How do I apply for a nursing license in Washington, DC, if I am a nurse from another country? 

Although it can seem overwhelming at times, just take things slow and enjoy the process. 

Every journey is made of tiny steps. 

So, what are you waiting for? 

Let’s get right into it!

How to Become a Registered Nurse in Washington, DC – 5 Simple Steps

Here are the five simple steps to becoming a registered nurse in Washington, DC.

  1. Decide on your nursing career path.
  2. Choose the best nursing education program and school.
  3. Take and pass the nursing licensure exam.
  4. Get your Washington, DC nursing license.
  5. Find a nursing job in Washington, DC.

Let’s examine each of these steps in more detail.

Step #1 – Decide on Your Nursing Career Path

How to Become an RN in Washington, DC - A Simple Guide

Before you even start your nursing journey, it would be best for you to plan and decide on your career path first.

This step will help you figure out what type of nurse you want to become and give you a roadmap on how to get there.

What type of nursing position do you want to pursue? Do you want to work in hospitals? Healthcare facilities? Nursing schools? Do you want to specialize? Are you open to managerial positions? 

There are a lot of opportunities in the field of nursing. 

If you already have a good idea of what you want to do as a nurse in the future, you can take the appropriate steps to get there. 

It will affect which nursing program you choose to enroll in, for example.

But don’t worry.

If you can’t envision yourself clearly yet, we’ll still give you an idea of your options. 

You can be flexible because plans and goals can still change along the way.

Step #2 – Choose the Best Nursing Education Program and School

Now it’s time to choose the best nursing education program and school for you.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer for this because a LOT depends on your budget, goals, preferences, and situation. 

But there are several things for you to keep in mind as you start choosing. 


There are two types of nursing degrees if you want to become a registered nurse. 

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the shortest and cheapest option.

It only takes about 2 years to complete. Finishing with an ADN enables you to work with the basic healthcare procedures that hospitals and facilities require.

But if you want more opportunities and specializations, then the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is another option.

This program can be completed in 4 years and offers opportunities such as leadership, management, and specialized roles for nurses.

If you’re thinking of becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, then it would be better for you to take a BSN. Most master’s programs and doctorates require a BSN.

But of course, taking a BSN is more expensive and time-consuming. 

Here is a table that gives a general comparison of ADN vs. BSN.

Time to complete2 years4 years
Enrollment feesCheaper than a BSNMore expensive 
Course workCore nursing subjects:

Foundations in Nursing
Behavioral Health
Core nursing subjects and more:

Anatomy and Physiology
Emergency Care
Health Assessment
Family, Community, and Population-Based Care
Public and Global Health
Nursing Theory, Research, and Ethics
Job ResponsibilitiesBasic healthcare tasks such as doctor’s assistance, providing medication to patients and checking up on the health histories of patientsMore opportunities such as working in the ER, administrative and managerial positions, and specializing in caring for a specific age group
Job OpportunitiesLess than a BSNMore
SalaryAverage salary of $78,929 per yearAverage salary of $93,772 per year

As we previously mentioned, getting a BSN degree grants you more job opportunities and could be better if you’re thinking long-term.

But even if you’ve taken an ADN program and earned a degree, you can still choose to take a BSN later through an RN to BSN program. 

So whichever degree and career path you take, just do your best.

How to Choose a Good Nursing School in Washington, DC

At the end of the day, choosing the best nursing program and school will depend on your preference and goals. 

You need to consider your location, the affordability of the program, and even whether you like the campus and facilities.

Just don’t forget that you must make SURE that it is state-approved by the District of Columbia Board of Nursing. This information gives the school a legitimate practice of providing nursing education.

You can also research the course offerings and curriculum of the school. Here you can check if the school is the right fit with the program, schedules, and teachers.

It’s also important to check the NCLEX passing rate of the school. Having a high passing percentage usually means that the school provides good training for its students.

Step #3 – Take and Pass the Nursing Licensure Exam

The nursing licensure exam for RNs, or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), is a very important part of your nursing education journey.

Taking this exam is the last major hurdle before you can get your RN license. 

Although national exams can be very overwhelming, your nursing education program will prepare you and train you as much as they can for this exam. 

They’ll give you a lot of tips and guides to assist you. 

There are also a lot of online resources available for you to prepare. You can take mock exams that simulate what the actual exam will be like. 

You can also enroll in review centers or join group studies. 

We suggest that you take the exam soon after graduating so that the things you learned will still be fresh in your memory. 

Step #4 – Get Your Washington, DC Nursing License

If you want to practice as an RN in Washington, DC, you need to apply for a state license from the District of Columbia Board of Nursing. 

They are the ones who will evaluate your application and credentials and issue your license. 

There are two main ways to apply for a Washington, DC, RN license, depending on where you are in your nursing journey. 

Let’s discuss the two routes. 

Obtaining a Washington, DC, RN License by Examination

If you haven’t taken the NCLEX yet, then you need to apply for a license through the examination route (which refers to the NCLEX). 

Candidates need to pay the $187 application fee and $200 examination fee after applying to the Board within 90 days.

Applying for a license by examination may require:

  • Completed application form
  • Application and examination fees
  • Criminal background check
  • Letters of recommendation from nursing faculty
  • Official college transcript
  • Two (2) passport-type photos

Obtaining a Washington, DC, RN License by Endorsement

Another option of getting your license is by endorsement.

This is for those who are already RNs in another state or US territory. You need to provide a license verification and prove that you’ve taken and passed the NCLEX-RN. 

You will also need to pay a $230 application fee.

If applying for your licensure by endorsement, you will need to submit:

  • Completed application form
  • Application fees
  • Verification of your licensure status (via NURSYS.COM if applicable)

Step # 5 – Find a Nursing Job in Washington, DC

Just a few steps and now you’re a registered nurse!

With your Washington, DC, RN license, you now have the opportunity to find a nursing job.

The state has launched a Fostering Understanding, Teaching Unity, Reaching Emerging Registered Nurses (FUTURE RN) program.

This program caters to the registered nursing workforce in Washington, DC.

Just remember to keep your RN license active by taking continuing education units.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Washington, DC

What are the Job Opportunities for an RN in Washington, DC?

Hospitals are the most common healthcare facilities in Washington, DC. 

State RNs can work at different hospital units. These include operating rooms, cardiac recovery, hematology/oncology, post-partum, and interventional radiology.

What is the Average Salary of an RN in Washington, DC?

The average salary of an RN in Washington, DC is $98,540 per year, with over 43,000+ currently employed as registered nurses. This wage is 19% higher than the national average of $82,750 annually.

How Can I Upgrade My License?

For nurses with an ADN degree, you can upgrade your license by taking the BSN education program if you wish to get a BSN degree.

You then have the option to become an advanced practice nurse (APN) and earn master’s and doctorate degrees in the process.

When Can I Renew My License?

License renewal occurs every two years. RN licenses in Washington, DC expire on June 30 of even-numbered years.

You need to renew your license online within 60 days of expiration date. There is a renewal fee of $145 and an additional $85 late fee.

If it exceeds 60 days, you’ll have to apply for re-licensure.

How do I Apply for a Nursing License in Washington, DC if I am a Nurse from Another Country? 

If you’re registered from another country, you should take the exam through the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) along with a certificate before applying to the Board.

You must be proficient in English when you take the exam. 

Documents not in English must be translated.


If you have gone this far, we’ve given you a simple step-by-step guide on becoming an RN in Washington, DC.

These steps will help guide you from planning your career path as an RN, getting into a good nursing school, taking the NCLEX-RN, obtaining an RN license, to finding a nursing job in the state.

Whether you plan on getting an ADN or BSN degree, there are many different options for you to take your career further.

Have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments below!

Good luck!

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