How To Become a Nurse in Arkansas: All You Need To Know

To become a nurse in Arkansas, complete the necessary education, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtain licensure from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.

For years, the Arkansas State Graduate Nurse Association worked towards introducing a state law for the registration of nurses. In 1913, their efforts resulted in the successful passage of the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act 128, and by 1947 mandatory registration for all nurses in the state was implemented. To this day, if you want to practice as a registered nurse in the so-called “Land of Opportunity”, you must be licensed. So, read on and learn how you can become a licensed nurse in Arkansas.



Becoming a nurse in Arkansas is like embarking on a treasure hunt… Just as the Crater of Diamonds State Park offers anyone the opportunity to discover valuable gems, pursuing a nursing career in Arkansas allows you to discover a different kind of wealth. The challenges you encounter along the way are akin to the pressure that transforms a rough stone into a diamond. The journey may be demanding, but it will lead you to the rewarding career and fulfillment that only nursing can offer.

What Is the Arkansas State Board of Nursing?

The Arkansas Board of Nursing functions as a regulatory body entrusted with the oversight of nursing practice within the state of Arkansas. As expressed in their mission statement, the board assumes the responsibility of protecting the public as well as acting as their representative through the effective regulation of nursing practices in the state, specifically by formulating and implementing guidelines and protocols pertaining to nursing education programs, licensure processes, and professional conduct. Thus, the Arkansas Board of Nursing assumes a pivotal role in both fostering excellence in nursing practice and safeguarding the established benchmarks of the nursing profession throughout the state.

How To Become a Registered Nurse in Arkansas


If you are interested in pursuing a career as a Registered Nurse in Arkansas, you must first fulfill certain requirements regarding education, experience, and examination to be licensed. Below we go through each one and introduce you to the different pathways you can follow to become a registered nurse there.

Earn a degree in nursing

The foundational bedrock of your nursing career is tied to your education, specifically the chosen nursing program. One route you can take is to pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. Such programs combine classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experiences to provide you with a foundation in nursing knowledge and skills.

Conversely, you can also pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. These programs generally provide a more comprehensive education than ADNs because they encompass a broader range of subjects, thus preparing you for more advanced nursing roles.

Because you will be applying for licensure from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, you must keep in mind that you should pursue your nursing degree in one of the board’s approved programs.

Pass the NCLEX-RN 

After completing an approved Arkansas nursing program, you will be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It is a standardized exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The exam assesses your knowledge, skills, and overall ability required to practice safely and effectively as an entry-level registered nurse.

To schedule the NCLEX-RN, you must register with Pearson VUE, the organization that administers the exam. Once your application is approved, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson VUE, which allows you to schedule your exam at an approved testing center.

Gain experience

Experience is another essential step in becoming a registered nurse in Arkansas. Though the specific requirements may vary depending on what institution you want to work in, as an aspiring RN, you can acquire valuable experience through clinical rotations. Generally, both ADN and BSN nursing programs include clinical rotations in their curricula. These rotations provide hands-on experience in various healthcare settings, enabling you to apply your theoretical knowledge and develop your nursing skills under the guidance of experienced clinical instructors.

Getting Your Nursing License in Arkansas

In accordance with the Nurse Practice Act, any person practicing as a registered nurse, advanced practice nurse, registered nurse practitioner, practical nurse, or psychiatric technician nurse in this state must be licensed by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing.

To be licensed in Arkansas, you can either apply for licensure by examination or, if you were licensed in another state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement.

To apply for licensure, you must submit your application through the Arkansas Nurse Portal, ensuring compliance with the specified requirements outlined by the state. These requirements include providing a valid Social Security number, declaring and substantiating your primary state of residence, submitting a fee of $100, and furnishing an affidavit containing information regarding graduation from an accredited nursing program. Additionally, you are obliged to provide details related to the completion of a criminal background check, thus ensuring adherence to regulatory standards of professional conduct and safeguarding public welfare.

If your goal is to work as a nurse in a different state without the hassle of obtaining individual licenses for each state, the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) provides a great solution. Fortunately, Arkansas is part of the compact nursing states making the process exceptionally convenient. With an eNLC license, you can practice in multiple states, including Arkansas, without requiring separate licensing procedures for each location.

Renewing Your Nursing License in Arkansas

The Arkansas State Board of Nursing (ASBN) implements a biennial birth date system for license renewal. Consequently, the initial license issued varies in validity, lasting between three to twenty-seven months based on the individual’s birth date.

It is important to note that each license type necessitates separate renewal. Nurses who have allowed their licenses to lapse and have not engaged in nursing practice during the previous licensure period may request reinstatement. Reinstatement requires payment of the renewal fee and late penalty, along with fulfillment of the continuing education requirements. Renewal applications must be submitted once again through the Arkansas Nurse Portal. For more information about a specific renewal application, you can read more on the Arkansas State Board of Nursing site.

How Long Does It Take To Become an RN In Arkansas?

Please note that the timeframe for obtaining RN licensure in Arkansas can vary based on several factors, including enrollment status, prerequisite course requirements, and individual progression. However, in general, the timeline for becoming an RN in Arkansas is similar to that of other states.

Depending on your chosen educational path, it typically takes around 2 to 4 years to complete the necessary degree requirements. Subsequently, the time it takes to prepare for and sit the NCLEX examination can vary, usually ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on when you apply and how much preparation you require.

Lastly, the process of applying for licensure, which involves meeting the board’s requirements, may take several weeks to months. This duration can be influenced by factors such as accumulating the required hours of experience, gathering the necessary documentation, completing required check-ups, and fulfilling other stipulated criteria.

Salary and Job Prospects for RNs in Arkansas

Though the specific salary and job outlook may vary depending on factors such as education, experience, location, and healthcare setting, Arkansas generally provides excellent opportunities for nurses to earn a respectable income and find employment.

Recent data shows that Arkansas’ average annual wage for registered nurses (RNs) is $112,877, around 20% above the national average. Additionally, in terms of job prospects, Long-Term Occupational Projections expect a 9.1% increase in RN jobs within the state, with 1,640 new job openings each year.

Top-paying cities for RNs in Arkansas


RNs in Arkansas generally receive competitive salaries, with specific cities offering higher wages than most. The following are among the top-paying cities for RNs in Arkansas:

  • Little Rock, AR: $125,374 per year
  • Fort Smith, AR: $122,075 per year
  • Hot Springs, AR: $114,207 per year
  • Bentonville, AR: $108,972 per year
  • Fayetteville, AR: $108,601 per year
  • El Dorado, AR: $96,914 per year
  • North Little Rock, AR: $96,494 per year
  • Conway, AR: $73,976 per year
  • Van Buren, AR: $63,858 per year

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, to practice as a nurse in Arkansas, you need licensure from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. In order to obtain the licensure, you must complete the necessary educational requirements and pass the NCLEX-RN. With a strong commitment to patient care and a passion for making a positive impact, you can enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career.

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