How to Become a Nurse in Massachusetts

Individuals interested in becoming licensed as a nurse in Massachusetts will join a team of more than 150,000 current licensees. Despite this high number, Massachusetts is currently experiencing a nursing shortage due to a growing population and aging baby boomers. The state's population of individuals age 65 or older is expected to increase from 17 percent in 2020, to 21 percent in 2030.

Students who consider studying nursing in Massachusetts can expect a rewarding career working alongside other health professionals in clinical and nonclinical settings. The Massachusetts Board of Nursing awards nursing licenses including licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), and advanced practice (APRN) nurse, while the Nurse Aide Registry program oversees certified nursing assistants (CNA). Massachusetts is considered the fourth top paying state for this occupation. RNs can expect to earn a median hourly wage of $40.72, while nurse practitioners (NPs) earn $56.13 hourly.

How to Get Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Certification in Massachusetts

Also known as a nurse aide, a CNA assists patients in daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, turning, repositioning, feeding, and preparing rooms for admission. A CNA also assists RNs in providing dignified care to patients. The Nurse Aide Registry Program oversees all aspects of nurse aide certification in the state. Individuals interested in pursuing Massachusetts CNA certification must graduate from a board-approved training program. There are several programs available throughout the state and locations can be found on the Nurse Aide Registry Program website. After completing a training program, individuals must apply to take the Nurse Aide Competency Evaluation Program to become certified. This test consists of two parts: a skills test and a written test.

CNA certification is valid for two years. Individuals who have worked doing nursing-related services for at least one eight-hour period during their two-year registry period are eligible to renew. The expiration date for a new certificate will be determined by adding two years to the last known date of employment.

How to Get a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) License in Massachusetts

An LPN works alongside RNs and physicians to provide patients with the advanced, quality care they need. Duties of an LPN range in scope from assisting in bathing and dressing to monitoring vital signs, cleaning wounds, giving injections, and monitoring medical equipment.

To receive a Massachusetts LPN license, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Graduate from a board-approved nursing program. The Board of Registration in Nursing provides a list of approved prelicensure nursing programs on its website.
  • Fulfill the state criteria for good moral character, as defined by state law.
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). This test evaluates the skills and knowledge in several vital areas of nursing pertaining to LPNs.

Once these requirements have been met, an individual may apply for licensure by registering and logging into the online application portal.

LPN licenses must be renewed every two years. Licenses expire at 11:59 p.m. on an individual’s birthday in odd-numbered years. Individuals must complete 15 contact hours of continuing education prior to renewing. Individuals can renew up to 90 days before their expiration. Once the online renewal is submitted, requests will be processed immediately. The board no longer prints or mails paper licenses.

How to Get a Registered Nurse (RN) License in Massachusetts

There are several steps that one must take to become an RN in Massachusetts. RNs work as part of a healthcare team of physicians, specialists, surgeons, technicians, assistants and more. They monitor a patient’s vital signs, administer medication, draw blood and perform other diagnostic tests, provide emotional support to their patients, and perform many other vital tasks. Graduating from a nursing program that has been approved by the Board of Registration of Nursing is the first step to becoming a licensed RN. Other requirements include submitting an application online for licensure to the board and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX evaluates an individual’s aptitude in four main areas: health promotion and maintenance; psychosocial integrity; physiological integrity; and safe, effective care environment.

Individuals must also comply with Good Moral Character (GMC) requirements, as defined by state law, to receive a Massachusetts RN license.

RN licenses must be renewed every two years. Licenses expire at 11:59 p.m. on an individual’s birthday in even-numbered years. Individuals can renew their Massachusetts nursing license online up to 90 days before their expiration date. Completion of 15 contact hours of continuing education for each renewal period is mandatory. Once individuals complete their online renewal, their request will be processed immediately. The board no longer prints or mails paper licenses.

How to Get an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) License in Massachusetts

RNs who want to further their career and education may choose to become an APRN. APRNs hold an advanced degree (master’s degree or higher) and are authorized by the board to engage in advanced practice nursing activities. These activities include consultations, referrals, diagnosis, and prescribing medications. APRNs are nationally certified in one or more of the following clinical categories: NP, CNM, CRNA, psychiatric clinical nurse specialist (PCNS) and CNS.

Certification is granted by independent national agencies (recognized by the board) that set their own education, experience and examination requirements for certification.

Once these requirements have been met, individuals can apply for board authorization to practice as an APRN. First-time applicants for a Massachusetts advanced practice nurse license must provide proof of:

  • Current RN licensure.
  • Official final transcript from education program.
  • Graduate level coursework.
  • Current APRN certification from a board-approved national certification organization.
  • Good moral character, as defined by Massachusetts state law.

APRN authorization (along with an individual’s RN license) expires at 11:59 p.m. on an individual’s birthday in even-numbered years. Individuals can renew up to 90 days before their expiration and must complete 15 contact hours of continuing education prior to renewal.

Individuals must also hold a current Massachusetts RN license and have a current certification from a board-recognized national professional organization to renew an APRN authorization to practice.

Requests for renewal will be processed immediately. The board no longer prints or mails paper licenses.