It can be daunting trying to figure out which states have the most efficient systems for obtaining your license. Whether you're on a deadline or just want your application process over with as soon as possible, it never hurts to know exactly which states might be the best (and fastest) options for you to get your nursing license. Here's what you need to know.
- Walk through states grant temporary permits
- The quickest states to get nursing license
- List of compact nursing states in 2023
The 15 Quickest States To Get Your Nursing License
Walk through states grant temporary permits
If you've ever thought about becoming a travel nurse, you may have heard the term "walk through state" thrown around. But what exactly is it? A walk through state allows nurses with temporary licenses to practice nursing without the usual paperwork and lengthier licensing process of getting a permanent license. A temporary state nursing license can be issued in anywhere from one hour to one day.
Walk through states (and temporary licenses) are popular among travel nurses who are constantly on the move and need to start working quickly. Check the requirements and limitations for these registered nurse (RN) licenses before strolling through. Pro tip: walk through licensing programs are valid anywhere from one to six months, so you'll need to make sure you're covered for the entirety of your travel nursing job.
If you're specifically looking for an RN license geared toward travel nurses, and truly the fastest possible options before you can get on the hospital floor, check out the following walk through states for same-day approval for a temporary travel nursing license:
- New York
- South Dakota
The quickest states to get nursing license
When you sort by processing time, there are some obvious standouts for the quickest states to get your nursing license. We've ranked them by the length of time it takes to get a permanent license in these states, although there is some overlap with varying windows of processing time. Here are the fastest 15 states to get your nursing licensure from, ending with the top choice for traveling nurses.
1-4 weeks to get permanent nursing license
Connecticut brings up the back of the pack due to its admittedly wide window for estimated time to process a nurse license. The Constitution State suggests that it can take anywhere from one to four weeks for qualified applicants to receive your nursing license after processing.
Connecticut is also not included as one of the compact states or a walk through state, but it wins a speedy point for not having special requirements for a criminal background check or fingerprinting.
2-3 weeks to get permanent license
Waiting two to three weeks to get a new license is very reasonable for most registered nurses. You may be able to find your dream job less than a month after checking out the board of nursing website for one of these next four states.
As a bonus, several of the quickest states to get a nursing license in are also extremely in-demand for travel nurses. Compare availability of travel RN jobs, cost of living, and specific perks like walkability, pet-friendliness, and anything else that might tip the scales when you're choosing your next travel assignment.
2 weeks to obtain licensure for nurses
The next eight states take even less time to obtain licensure. Many of these states are part of the enhanced nurse licensure compact (eNLC), which gives registered nurses the ability to work in multiple states versus a single state license, which limits the available opportunities, especially for a travel nurse.
It is essential to make sure you are aware of the rules and regulations for each state — find the licensure requirements on the website for each state's board of nursing. Some require fingerprints, a criminal background check, and other specifics, and you may face disciplinary actions if you forget to comply.
10-15 days to receive a nursing license
The Peach State is one of the fastest states to get an active RN license. Although Georgia is not a walk through state, it is one of the participating compact states, which makes it easier for you to practice nursing across the country.
Of course, you don't need to leave to find other participating states — you're welcome to keep Georgia your primary state. Finding a travel nursing assignment in the same state that you have permanent licensure in can be an effective way to dip your toes into the travel nursing life without finding transportation and housing in a brand-new location.
2-15 days to get a permanent license as a registered nurse
One of the most popular states for many nurses is also the quickest state to get a nursing license in. Although it is not currently one of the participating compact states, many nurses consider it worth getting an active RN license specifically for Hawaii, which makes it easier to transition into a travel nursing job there. Single state licenses are not always the most efficient way to get licensure but may be worth it to go on a dream travel assignment.
List of compact nursing states in 2023
There are 38 states involved in the enhanced nursing licensure compact. Pennsylvania is no longer pending eNLC legislation but is still awaiting implementation.
We strongly recommend that anyone interested in practicing nursing in multiple states, which is most travel nurses, look into an enhanced nurse licensure compact state license. Permanent licensure doesn't need to be a hassle and leaning into the compact state alliance will help any registered nurse get the most bang for their buck.
Here are all the other participating compact states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
While each state has different rules and regulations in place for licensing nurses, there are certain tips that nurses can use to ensure their license applications are completed quickly. Research the requirements of the state you plan to begin practicing in, so that you understand what paperwork is needed and when licenses need to be renewed.
Get familiar with the compact nursing states as well, in order to provide yourself with more options and the flexibility of practicing in multiple places throughout the year. If a registered nurse finds themselves needing a temp license but living in a non-compact state, they can look into applying for a “walk through” or temporary nursing license from one of those states.
Ultimately, obtaining a nursing license is an important step towards becoming a travel nurse. You should have all the information to choose the right career path for your specific wants and needs, and that's what we're here to provide.