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Licensure is required by many professions as a means of protecting the public from harm. It is licensure that sets the minimal qualifications and competencies for safe, entry-level practitioners. The general public may not have sufficient information and experience to identify an unqualified healthcare provider, and is therefore vulnerable to unsafe and incompetent practitioners. A license issued by a government entity (e.g., the state Board of Nursing [BON]) provides this assurance to the public that the nurse has met these predetermined standards.1

Successful completion of your board certification exam enables you to submit your application to your specific state BON for your license as an NP. Certification is granted by the national board certification organizations after successful completion of your certification examination. Nurse practitioner licensure is granted by individual states. So just to be sure you have this clear—your board certification is not your NP license. The NP license is granted by your state. Professional certification and licensure are required by NPs in almost every state. There is significant variability between states’ laws on specific criteria for licensure. Nurse practitioner requirements are set at the state level.

Individual states may approve certifying agencies or approve individual certification examinations. Other states may defer to organizations that accredit certification agencies. They may reference the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and/or the American Board of Nursing Specialties.2

Some state boards allow the NP graduate to practice for a limited time after graduation, by issuing a temporary permit, pending certification. Defined timelines are identified and strictly enforced. Certification examination failure invalidates a temporary credential.

Referring to the state BON website in your specific state is recommended. Nursing is an excellent website to get specific information regarding your RN and NP license.2 On this site you will find detailed instructions for completion and list of required materials to submit.


Individual states regulate licensure requirements. All 50 states require NPs to have a registered nurse (RN) license. Forty states require NPs to have master’s degrees. Forty-five states require NPs to have obtained national certification.3


Unlike your RN licensure, there is no NCLEX-RN exam for the nurse practitioner to achieve licensure at the state level. The NP certification examination is used by most states to determine the competency of a candidate. After successful completion of your certification examination you must then apply to your state BON to be licensed. One certifying organization, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) will notify the state BON at no charge if you have completed the state (BON) notification form. All of the certifying organizations provide a means for your examination results to be sent to your specific BON. These details are outlined on their individual websites.



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