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

How to Become an RN in Wisconsin

To become an RN in Wisconsin, you probably know that you have to complete a nursing education and pass a licensing exam. 

But do you know the steps in detail?


Don’t worry – we’re here to change that. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps on how to become an RN in Wisconsin. This way, you don’t just have an idea of how to become an RN in Wisconsin — you know all the details. 

So let’s begin!

How to Become an RN in Wisconsin – The 4 Steps 

For a quick reference, here are the 4 steps to becoming an RN in Wisconsin:

  1. Don’t wait until college to prepare
  2. Decide on your nursing program
  3. Pick an approved nursing school
  4. Work on your Wisconsin RN license 

Now, let’s go through the details of each step. 

Step 1: Don’t Wait Until College to Prepare

If your dream is to become an RN, don’t wait until college to prepare. 

You’ll soon find out that a lot of nursing programs look for enrollees with medical background classes. 

So here are some ideas to prepare: 

  • Take the appropriate classes. Most nursing schools require applicants to take specific subjects. Unless you have a particular school in mind, it might be challenging to pin down.

However, the following are a safe bet:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 to 4 years of Math (algebra and geometry)
  • 2 to 4 years of Science (biology and chemistry, preferably with labs)
  • 2 years of Social Studies
  • 2 years of Foreign Language
  • Get Exposure. Volunteering in a hospital or a clinic can give you a better idea of what it’s like to be a nurse. You can even ask the administration’s permission to interview some nurses. 
  • Join a Healthcare Organization. HOSA-Future Health Professionals is an excellent choice. You can attend conferences and participate in competitions. Best of all, they’ll provide resources that can help you understand the healthcare industry better.
  • Participate in Nurse-Related Extracurricular Activities. Take a first aid class or one that covers basic life support. You can also help out at a local blood drive.
  • Read Up on Nursing Trends. All industries change over time, and nursing is no exception. Staying up-to-date with current issues and topics can be an advantage. You can give the American Journal of Nursing a try if you like reading.

Step 2: Decide on Your Nursing Program

Now, to begin your journey to becoming an RN in Wisconsin, you need to start with a Board-approved nursing program. 

You can either go for an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Think of these as two routes heading to the same destination. The program you choose has short-term and long-term effects. 

To understand your options better, here’s a table comparing the programs.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Tuition Fee:$3,500 to $5,500 per year$7,500 to $10,500 per year
Program Length:1½ to 2 years3 to 4 years  
Curriculum Focus:Clinical practice
Nursing concepts
Clinical practice
Nursing concepts
Public Health
National NCLEX Pass Rates*:78.92%82.95
Workforce Entry:SoonerLater
Career Advancement:FewerMore
Practice Areas:Intensive Care
Emergency Room
Mental Health
Intensive Care
Emergency Room
Mental Health
Public Health
Case Management

* Based on the 2022 NCSBN Report

Step 3: Pick an Approved Nursing School

Once you decide which program path to take, it’s time to pick a Board-approved nursing school. 

The Wisconsin Division of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) makes it easy for you by providing a list of approved in-state and out-of-state nursing schools. 

You can also click here to check out the NCLEX pass rates for certain approved schools. 

Of course, approved or not approved is not the only thing to look into. 

You should also consider: 

  • Learning Options: Students who intend to work while studying may prefer to complete their degree online or attend night classes. You’ll only need to be physically present for your clinical hours.
  • Faculty: A school with experienced instructors in varied nursing specialties can give you a well-rounded education.
  • Class Size: A smaller class size may give your instructor more time to personalize the program to the students’ needs. They may also be more available to provide additional guidance if necessary.
  • Technology: We’re not talking about computers where you can look up information. Some schools have invested in simulation labs that allow you to practice some techniques you’ve learned.
  • NCLEX Pass Rates: NCLEX doesn’t just track pass rates at a national and state level. You can also find how each school fares. These are good indicators of how well the school prepares its graduates for the licensure exam.
  • Student Support Programs: See if the school offers platforms for financial aid or career placement.

Step 4: Work on Your Wisconsin RN License

After you complete your nursing program, you can start working on your Wisconsin RN license. 

Here’s what to do:

  1. Create an account with LicensE and provide your personal information. 
  1. Register for the NCLEX-RN exam with Pearson VUE. You have to pay the $200 exam fee directly to them. 

NOTE: If you register with Pearson VUE after your nursing school has sent your documents, please read your application status. The Board requires some applicants to send an email to WI DSPS letting them know about their Pearson VUE registration.

  1. Gather your education requirements:
    • For domestic applicants (graduates from a nursing school within the U.S. and its territories) — Your nursing school must send your statement of graduation or official transcripts directly to the WI DSPS. The Board will reject the submission if it goes through you.
    • For foreign-education applicants (graduates from a nursing school outside of the US and its territories) — the CGFNS must send a valid certificate directly to the Board of Nursing. 
  1. Request for a Temporary Permit (if you want). You need to submit Form 2434, pass all the requirements, and pay a fee of $10. This will allow you to practice nursing under the supervision of an RN while waiting to take your NCLEX-RN exam. 
  1. Submit the Authorization for Release of FBI Information Form 2687 (for multistate license only). The Board informs applicants that they may use their fingerprints to check for any criminal history with the FBI. 
  1. Get digital fingerprints. Only candidates applying for a multistate license will need this. You will receive instructions once the Board receives your Form 2687.
  1. Pay the $57 initial credential fee.
  1. Submit your application. 
  1. Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT). You get this once the Board approves your application and decides you qualify for examination. Do not lose your ATT. It contains instructions on how to schedule your exam.
  1. Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. 

NOTE: If you fail the NCLEX-RN exam, you can retake it after 45 days. 

  1. Receive your RN license from the Board. 

Congratulations! You are now a registered nurse in Wisconsin. 

Licensure by Endorsement

What is the process for applicants who already have an RN license in a non-compact state?

Well, to get an Wisconsin RN license, you need to apply by endorsement. 

Here are the steps: 

  1. Verify your license. You must verify your license from your original state and Wisconsin. If your original RN license is still active, you only need to verify that. 

You can complete this process through Go through their verification process, pay the fee, and designate Wisconsin as the recipient of the verification. 

If your state is not in the Nursys system, you must reach out to your original state’s Board and request them to send a verification of licensure directly to the WI DSPS. \

  1. Submit a completed Temporary Permit Request – Form 2434 (if your original state is not part of Nursys). 
  1. Submit a completed Authorization for Release of FBI Information – Form 2687
  1. Get digital fingerprints. You will receive instructions on how to do this step after the Board receives your completed Form 2687. 

Frequently Asked Questions About RNs in Wisconsin

Before we go, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about RNs in Wisconsin. 

When do RNs renew their licenses in Wisconsin?

You’ll have to undergo the renewal process biennially. Your license expires on the last day of February every even-numbered year.

Currently, RNs in Wisconsin do not have to comply with any requirements. However, you need to apply for renewal and pay the $57 fee. It increases to $82 if you renew your license late.

How much do RNs earn in Wisconsin?

RNs in Wisconsin earn an annual median salary of $76,850. That’s around 7% lower than the national rate.

The Wrap Up

That was all the details on how to become an RN in Wisconsin. 

Now that you have an entire roadmap laid out for you, it’ll be a lot easier. Just make sure to follow the steps one by one.

Good luck!

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