How to Become an RN in Washington – A Simple Guide

How to Become an RN in Washington - A Simple Guide

Looking to get a career as a registered nurse (RN)  in Washington?

That’s great! 

For starters, a career as an RN isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of time and effort. 

But if you are serious about pursuing a career, having an RN license can open many opportunities for you! And the job is very rewarding as you get to help others out! 

But now, the question is… How do you become an RN?

It can get pretty confusing since there are many things to consider and many processes to undergo. 

But we’re here to simplify things for you by giving you our 5-step guide on how to become an RN in Washington.

We’ll also answer some FAQs about job opportunities, salaries, renewing your license, and more. 

But at this point, it would be good to remember that there are other types of nurses. You can look over this article to see if a registered nurse is the type of nursing job you're looking for.

Now, if you’re all set, let’s discuss five easy steps to becoming an RN in Washington!

Let’s get into it!

How to Become a Registered Nurse in Washington: A Simple 5-Step Guide

You can become a registered nurse in Washington in five simple steps!

  1. Plan your career.
  2. Look for the best nursing education program for you.
  3. Take the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).
  4. Obtain your license.
  5. Get a nursing job.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps! 

Step #1 – Plan Your Career

To get you started, you need to plan your career path as an RN.

Do you see yourself working in hospitals, doctor’s offices, or nursing care facilities for the elderly?

Or perhaps you would want to teach in a nursing school after graduating?

Do you want to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in the future?

This step is where you lay the groundwork for your future plans.

Your plans can still change over time. Don’t worry about sticking to one path, but having a direction can save you a lot of twists and turns. 

You’ll see why this is important even in step #2. 

Step #2 – Look for the Best Nursing Education Program for You

To develop the proper knowledge and skills to become an RN, you will need to enroll in a nursing education program.

A nursing diploma is necessary if you want to be able to pursue a career as a nurse.

But to get an RN degree, you can choose between two options.


What are the different degrees in nursing, such as ADN and BSN?

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a basic-level degree for nurses who plan to become healthcare professionals. This route is the easiest and fastest option, as you can complete this in two years.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is more expensive and takes four years to complete. This degree is for nurses who plan to advance their careers or pursue further studies, such as the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

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

Time to complete 2 years 4 years
Enrollment fees Cheaper More expensive 
Course work Core nursing subjects:

Behavioral Health
Nursing Foundations

Core nursing subjects and more:

Anatomy and Physiology
Emergency Care
Health Assessment
Population-Based Care
Public and Global Health
Nursing Theory, Research, and Ethics

Job Responsibilities Basic nursing care and clinical tasks More complex roles and responsibilities in direct-care and managerial responsibilities
Job Opportunities Less More
Salary An average of $67,468 a year An average of $91,310 a year
Fees $120 Application Fee$200 Examination 

Getting an ADN degree is much easier and faster than getting a BSN degree. So if you want to go through nursing school fast, then earning an ADN degree is the option.

This course grants you the opportunity to focus on the basic healthcare procedures when you become an RN.

However, if your priority is to gain more in-depth training and more opportunities for employment or career advancement, then BSN is the option for you. 

You can also pursue a BSN degree if you already have an ADN degree. This is called an RN to BSN bridge program. 

How to Choose a Good Nursing School in Washington

There is no right or wrong answer when finding the best nursing school for you.

But it’s important to check a nursing school that is licensed by the Washington State Board of Nursing. Some schools run without a license, so you better do your research.

A school with high National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)-RN passing rates is also good. 

The NCLEX-RN is a very important part of your career as an RN. This exam will test the competency and skills of the students enrolled in the US and Canada. 

A high NCLEX rating, therefore, ensures that the school’s programs truly help the students get a good future career.

Step #3 – Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) 

After getting into nursing school, you will need to proceed to take the NCLEX-RN. 

In Washington, the NCLEX-RN passing rate for nursing programs is 90.6%, which is a tad bit higher than the national passing rate of 88%.

You will need to submit your:

  • online application form
  • verification of education
  • transcript of records
  • and a nonrefundable application fee of $120.

You will also need to register through Pearson Vue to take the NCLEX exam and pay a $200 examination fee. 

Once your application is accepted, you can schedule your exam.

If you don’t get to pass the exam on your first try, you can still choose to retake it.

Step #4 – Obtain Your License

Once you’ve passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you can now get your RN license. 

Obtaining a Washington RN License by Examination

All aspiring RNs have to undergo the process of taking and passing the NCLEX. 

If you’ve never had an RN license before, then you need to apply for a Washington RN license by examination. 

Once you pass the exam, the Washington State Board of Nursing will give you your RN license. 

Obtaining a Washington RN License by Endorsement

If you are already an RN in another state, then you can apply for your RN license in Washington through endorsement. 

You must provide proof that you completed an approved nursing education program, seven hours of AIDS education, a current active out-of-state RN license, as well as the completed application with the applicable fee.

The application fee for RNs is $120.00. It’s worth noting that this is non-refundable.

Step # 5 – Get a Nursing Job

Now that you’ve gone through the previous steps, you’re now a registered nurse!

It’s time to find a job that suits your interests and needs. Gain valuable experience! 

On the other hand, having a license doesn’t mean education is already one and done.

If you are an AND-RN, you can choose to get back into nursing school and take an RN to BSN education program. If you are a BSN-RN you can pursue higher studies and become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). 

According to the Washington Center for Nursing, transition-to-practice (TPP) programs are being offered by several hospitals. Newly licensed RNs are often assigned as instructors. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an RN in Washington

Now that we’ve discussed how to become an RN, let’s answer some FAQs about job opportunities, salaries, renewing licenses, and more.

What are the job opportunities for an RN in Washington?

Nurses in Washington are high in demand, with salaries among the highest in the nation.

Hospitals in Washington have a staffing committee for nurse-patient plans and policies. 

On the other hand, the nursing workforce in Washington is becoming more diverse in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity over the years.

Between 2020 and 2030, the projected job growth for RNs in Washington is 20.5%, this is according to Projections Central.

As of 2019, almost 75% of RNS under 30 years old with a BSN or a higher degree are guaranteed a job in Washington.

On another note, over 60% of RNs work in local, state, or private hospitals.

How much does an RN in Washington earn on average?

The average annual salary for RNs in Washington is $91,310, which is higher than the national average of $80,010. This is one of the highest-paying salaries across the US.

Here is a list of the highest-paying cities in Washington for RNs of the different opportunities and salaries you can get hired in, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Seattle — Tacoma — Bellevue - $95,120
  • Olympia — Tumwater - $93,270
  • Wenatchee - $88,550
  • Spokane — Spokane Valley - $89,890
  • Walla Walla - $91,280

How can I upgrade my license?

ADN nurses can choose to upgrade their licenses and apply for the BSN education program to get a BSN degree.

For those with a BSN degree, you can pursue the advanced practice nurse (APN) program. You can also take master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing.

When can I renew my license?

An RN license in Washington must be renewed annually on your birthday to maintain activation. There is a $120 renewal fee.

You can pay a $170 late renewal fee if you've missed the renewal deadline. 

For those who want to reactivate their licenses, you need to submit a reactivation application form and submit a $240 fee.

How do I apply for a nursing license in Washington if I am a nurse from another country? 

If you’re an RN with a license outside the US, you will need an educational evaluation from one of the approved organizations. 

You can request a copy of your transcripts directly from the school if the evaluation service wasn’t able to send the transcripts.

You will also need to provide proof that you have had AIDS training to get a nursing license in Washington.

There is also a non-refundable $120 application fee.

Bellingham Technical College 3028 Lindbergh Ave. Bellingham WA 98225 Phone: 360-752-7000

Highline Community College PO Box 98000 Des Moines, WA 98198-9800
Phone: 206-878-3710 Ext 3471

Lower Columbia College 1600 Maple Street
Longview, WA 98632
Phone: 360-442-2860

Pierce College – Puyallup 1601 39th Avenue SE Puyallup WA 98374-2222 Phone: 253-864-3272

Shoreline Community College 16101 Greenwood Ave N Seattle, WA 98133
Phone: 206-546-4743

Skagit Valley College – Mt Vernon/Whidbey Island
2405 E. College Way Mt Vernon, WA 98273
Phone: 360-416-7933

Tacoma Community College 6501 S 19th St. Tacoma,
WA 98466
Phone: 253-566-5000

Bellevue College  Main Campus, Rm R140-A 3000 Landerholm Circle SE Bellevue, WA 98007-6484 Phone: 425-564-1000

Bellingham Technical College 3028 Lindburgh Avenue Bellingham, WA
Phone: 360-752-7000

Big Bend Community College 7662 Chanute St. N.E. Moses Lake, WA 98837
Phone: 509-793-2131

Centralia College  
Nursing Program
600 W Locust Centralia,
WA 98531
Phone: 360-736-9391

Clark College
1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd. Vancouver, WA 98663 Phone: 360-992-2000

Columbia Basin College Nursing Program
2600 N 20th Ave.
Pasco, WA 99301
Phone: 509-372-7680

Everett Community College Nursing Department 2000 Tower St. Everett, WA 98201-1327
Phone: 425-388-9463

Grays Harbor College  Nursing Department
1620 Edward P Smith Drive Aberdeen, WA 98520
Phone: 360-538-4147

Highline Community College PO Box 98000 Des Moines, WA 98198-9800
Phone: 206-878-3710 Ext 3471

Lake WA Institute of Technology Nursing Program 11605 132nd Avenue NE Kirkland, WA 98034
Phone: 425-739-8100

Lower Columbia College  Nursing Program 1600 Maple Street Longview,
WA 98632
Phone: 360-442-2860

Olympic College Nursing Program 1600 Chester Ave. Bremerton, WA 98377-1699 Phone: 360-394-2760

Peninsula College
Nursing Program
1502 East Lauridsen Blvd. Port Angeles, WA 98362 Phone: 360-417-6455

Pierce College – Puyallup Nursing Program 1601 39th Avenue SE Puyallup
WA 98374-2222
Phone: 253-864-3272

Renton Technical College Nursing Program 3000 NE 4th Street Renton,
WA 98056
Phone: 425-235-2352

Seattle Colleges Seattle Central Campus North Seattle Campus South
1701 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122
Phone: 206-587-4123

Shoreline Community College Nursing Program 16101 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98133
Phone: 206-546-4743

Skagit Valley College – Mt Vernon/Whidbey Island Nursing Department
2405 E. College Way
Mt Vernon, WA 98273
 Phone: 360-416-7933

South Puget Sound Community College School of Nursing 2011 Mottman Rd. SE Olympia, WA 98512 Phone: 360-768-6414

Spokane Community College Nursing Education N. 1810 Greene St. MS 2090 Spokane, WA 99217
Phone: 509-533-7000

Tacoma Community College Nursing Program 6501 S 19th St. Tacoma, WA 98466 Phone: 253-566-5000

Walla Walla Community College Nursing Education 500 Tausick Way Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: 509-527-4240

Walla Walla Community College Nursing Education 500 Tausick Way Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: 509-527-4240

Wenatchee Valley College Nursing Program 1300 5th Street Wenatchee,
WA 98801
Phone: 509-682-6800

Whatcom Community College Nursing Program 237 West Kellogg Rd Bellingham, WA 98226 Phone: 360-383-3211

Yakima Valley Community College Nursing Program N. 16th & Nob Hill Blvd Yakima, WA 98907-2520
Phone: 509-574-4902

Visit the Washington BON website for updates.

List of Baccalaureate Degree Programs (BSNs) in Washington

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

Gonzaga University Department Of Nursing
502 E. Boone Ave. Spokane, WA 99258-0038
Phone: 800-986-9585

Saint Martin’s University 5000 Abbey Way SE Lacey, WA 98503
Phone: 800-368-8803

Walla Walla University School of Nursing
10345 SE Market St. Portland, OR 97216
Phone: 800-541-8900 | 503-251-6115

Heritage University
Nursing Program
3240 Fort Rd.
Toppenish WA 98948
Phone: 509-865-8500

Seattle Pacific University School of Health Sciences 3307 3rd Avenue West Suite 317 Seattle, WA 98119 Phone: 206-296-6000

Washington State University – Spokane Campus  
P.O. Box 1495 Spokane,
WA 99210-1495
Phone: 509-324-7360

Northwest University Buntain College of Nursing 5520 108th Ave. NE Kirkland, WA 98033
Phone: 425-822-8266

Seattle University
College of Nursing
901-12 Ave Seattle.
WA 98122-1090
Phone: 206-296-5660

Washington State University - Tri-Cities Campus
College of Nursing 1266 Lee Blvd Richland, WA 99352 Phone: 509-372-7180

Pacific Lutheran University  
Ramstad 214 Tacoma,
WA 98447
Phone: 253-535-7672

University of Washington School of Nursing Box 357260 Seattle,
WA 98195-7260
Phone: 206-543-8736

Washington State
University Yakima
1401 W Prasch Ave
Yakima, WA 98902
Phone: 509-494-7900

Visit the Washington BON website for updates.


And there you have it! 

Whichever career path as an RN you’re going to take, many opportunities are waiting.

Becoming an RN in Washington is usually the same in other states. However, Washington is one of the highest-paying states for nurses. Salary opportunities won’t be much of a problem.

But a bit of a downside, the cost of living in Washington is also one of the most expensive in the US. 

That’s why it’s crucial to truly set a career path as an RN right from the start. 
Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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