How To Get A License After Graduating From A Nursing Degree

Updated on July 27, 2020
Team of doctors working together on patients file at hospital. Medical staff analyzing report and working at clinic. Woman doctor having discussion in a hospital hallway with nurse, copy space.

When your graduation day arrives, you may feel as if you’re on top of the world and rightly so-you’ve completed a respectable milestone. The road, however, doesn’t end there. Getting a license requires the same level of commitment and diligence that you applied to obtaining your degree. Here’s what you need to do to get a license after graduating from a nursing degree. 

1. Apply For A License

Once you’ve graduated, the first step to getting your license is to apply for one with the nursing board. Depending on your location, the documents you need to submit will vary. You may have to submit your transcripts, accomplished licensure form, and licensure fees. Contact the nursing board to check what documents and requirements you need to prepare before submitting your application. 

2. Register And Study For The NCLEX

After you get your diploma, you won’t be able to hang up your study hat just yet. Register and study for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain your license. The materials that you need to study are extensive, which is why you should find platforms that provide crucial resources for exam prep. 

Here are some excellent tips that you can try when preparing for the NCLEX:

  • Studying cover to cover is impossible because you’re still bound to overlook essential information or get overwhelmed with the amount of material you have to memorize.
  • Study strategically by finding resources that target essential topics are covered in the exam. For example, look for platforms and resources that tackle endocrine NCLEX questions because this is a common and popular topic in the exam. 
  • Some platforms also allow you to sign up for daily NCLEX practice questions, which consist of challenging questions that prior test takers had found difficult to answer. You’ll receive them via e-mail and, depending on the package that you register for, gain access in-depth answers and explanations. 
Young African-American nurse with stethoscope on color background, closeup

3. Pass The NCLEX

Perhaps you’ve already ticked most of the exam preparation boxes which include studying material, registering, and mentally preparing for the day. On top of these, don’t forget about the details of the exam day which can either make or break your licensure success

Here are some tips to keep you physically and mentally prepared on the day of the NCLEX:

  • You must make sure that you’re well-rested on the day of the exam. It can be tempting to go through all your study material the night before, or burn the midnight oil making sure that you have not overlooked any essential material. However, these last-minute preparations are counterproductive if they mean that you’re going into the exam mentally and physically exhausted. 

Caffeine and catnaps are not advisable as a means of gaining energy on the day of the exam. Make sure to have a good night’s sleep and wake up early with a clear mind and a rested body. 

  • Meditating before the exam can help free your mind from worries and distractions. Meditation holds different meanings for various people. For some, this may involve breathing techniques or practicing yoga; for others it is an outdoor hike. Discover an activity that clears your mind from any stresses and worries. Walk into the exam with a confident outlook and a determination to pass. 
  • Another practical tip is to arrive at the exam center 30 minutes early. When you arrive early, you’ll have time to calm down and not get sucked into the last-minute group panic that sometimes occurs. If you get easily anxious when people discuss material right before the exam, find a quiet spot where you can continue your mental relaxation techniques. Don’t join in group discussions by the testing center’s entrance if this doesn’t add any value for you. 
  • More than anything else, it’s important for you to believe in yourself. Know your strengths and address your weaknesses so when it’s time for you to take the exam, you won’t doubt your knowledge and abilities. Confidence is the key that locks together all the preparation that you put into the exam. 

After the exam, it is equally important to reduce the risks of post-exam anxiety. The groups that thrived on pre-exam discussions by the entrance, are also likely to discuss the answers that they wrote during the exam. If these group discussions also place you in a state of anxiety, it is advisable to leave the examination center as soon as you complete the exam. Carry on with activities that relax you, and focus on the next steps that are needed to get your license. 

4. Complete Additional Requirements 

Depending on your location, you may be asked to submit other requirements after completing your exam. Make sure to have a checklist of all the required paperwork. It would be unfortunate to prepare for the exam and pass it with flying colors, only to realize that your license application falls short of the administrative requirements. 

Some of the additional requirements that you’ll need to submit or undergo are the following:

  • Identification
  • Proof of residence
  • Educational transcripts
  • Testimonials
  • Criminal background check

5. Wait Productively

You won’t receive the results of your exam on the same day. You may need to wait for a few days or weeks, depending on various factors such as your location and the number of applicants. It’s easy to get anxious during this waiting period. Be productive while you’re waiting by brushing up on the materials you’ll continue to use after you get your license. Remember that the studying that you put in isn’t just to pass the exam, it is so you can become an efficient, knowledgeable, and skilled nurse. 


Your graduation is a step in the right direction to getting your nursing license. There is still a lot you need to do to complete the process. You have to register for and pass the NCLEX exam. This involves complying with the additional documents and information that the board may require from you. Prepare a checklist to ensure that you’re not skipping any requirements needed to complete the process. 

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