Kentucky Nursing License: How To Become a Nurse in the Bluegrass State

In order to become a nurse in Kentucky and reap the benefits that come with it, you need education, experience, and licensure.

Kentucky, often associated with agriculture and rich farmland, has a diverse economy stretching far beyond its agricultural roots through manufacturing, education, tourism, and healthcare. The healthcare sector in Kentucky is particularly robust, with a well-established infrastructure that includes prestigious medical centers and hospitals, providing access to advanced technologies and specialized fields as well as ample job opportunities and a positive job outlook for nurses and other healthcare professionals. If you’re considering a career as a nurse in Kentucky, read on and gain insights on what to expect from this journey.



Even as a nurse in the Bluegrass state, you embody the spirit of a Kentucky farmer. Like farmers who nurture their crops, you care for individuals and communities. Both professions demand thorough preparation, meticulous attention to detail, and a profound sense of responsibility for the well-being of others. Just as Kentucky’s landscapes offer diverse opportunities, the state’s job market presents a fertile ground for you to cultivate a flourishing nursing career. Embrace the journey and watch your career bloom.

What Is the Kentucky Board of Nursing?

The Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) is the regulatory body that oversees the competency and professionalism of nurses in the state to protect public health. They establish educational and licensing requirements, investigate complaints, and take disciplinary action. The KBN can grant various nursing licensures, including ​licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), ​advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), and dialysis technicians (DTs) licensures.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As of March 2023, KBN has implemented ORBS (Optimal Regulatory Board System), a cloud-based system for managing licenses. Nowadays, verifying all KBN licenses through this portal is easier than ever. Furthermore, Kentucky licensure notifications and reports are also available for free through Nursys e-Notify, the source equivalent of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.​​​

How To Become a Registered Nurse in Kentucky


To become a registered nurse in Kentucky, you must meet specific requirements to be legally licensed for practice in that state. As a prospective nurse, follow the steps below to begin your nursing journey.

Earn a degree

To start, you’ll need to earn a nursing degree. Generally, there are two options to choose from:

Kentucky has many colleges and universities that offer accredited nursing programs, but choosing a program that the KBN approves is essential to ensure you can get licensed.

Pass the NCLEX-RN

After obtaining your nursing degree, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is necessary. The test evaluates your knowledge and skills to ensure you qualify for entry-level nursing practice.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing will provide you with guidance on how to register for the exam. However, it is up to you to prepare for the NCLEX-RN. We recommend you engage in self-study, review courses, and practice tests.

Gain experience

After passing the NCLEX-RN, the next step is to gain experience working in a clinical setting. Many nurses start their careers in entry-level positions in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities. This experience will help you develop your skills and gain practical knowledge. Pursuing specialized certifications in critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, or other areas can also help you stand out and open up more career opportunities.

Getting Your Nursing License in Kentucky

After passing the NCLEX-RN, you can obtain your nursing license in Kentucky by applying to the Kentucky Board of Nursing. There are three possible routes you can take to get your Kentucky nursing license. The first option, licensure by examination, is the way to go if you have yet to take and pass the NCLEX before. If you have been initially licensed in another state or U.S. jurisdiction, you can become licensed by endorsement. In contrast, if you have previously held a Kentucky LPN or RN license that has lapsed, then you can apply for licensure by reinstatement.

Typically, the application process for all three options involves submitting an application, providing the required documents, and paying the fees. Ensuring that all necessary documents are submitted accurately and on time is crucial. The application process may take several weeks, so it’s advisable to plan accordingly. Once the board approves your application, you will receive your nursing license.

Renewing Your Nursing License in Kentucky


In Kentucky, nursing licenses must be renewed on an annual basis. The nurse licensure online renewal process occurs between September 15th and October 31st each year. 

You must fulfill all requirements to keep your license active, including completing continuing education credits. The Kentucky Board of Nursing oversees the renewal process and provides guidelines for meeting the renewal requirements. It is crucial to stay updated on the renewal process and complete the necessary steps on time to keep your nursing license.

How Long Does It Take To Become an RN in Kentucky?

The exact time it may take you to become an RN in Kentucky depends on your chosen educational path. ADN programs usually take two years, whereas pursuing a BSN requires four years of study. However, keep in mind that the time can differ if you choose to pursue a different mode of study, such as part-time or accelerated programs.

Additionally, you should also factor in the time spent preparing for and taking the NCLEX-RN as well as being licensed.

Salary and Job Outlook for RNs in Kentucky

Kentucky offers competitive salaries and a positive job outlook for nurses. As of June 2023, the average annual wage for a registered nurse in Kentucky is $124,495, with a reported additional $12,000 overtime per year. The salary ranges from $93,121 to $166,440, depending on various factors such as experience, location within the state, employer, specialization, and more.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for registered nurses will increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is about the same pace as the average for all occupations. Additionally, according to data from the Labor Market Information (LMI) regarding long-term occupational projections, in Kentucky, this positive change in the job outlook is estimated to be 8.8%, with an average of 2,730 new job openings yearly.

Top-paying cities for RNs in Kentucky

As mentioned, nursing salaries may vary across the state, with some cities offering higher earning potential than others. Some of the top-paying cities for RNs in Kentucky include:

  • Paducah, KY with an average of $147,576 per year
  • Hazard, KY with an average of $143,152 per year
  • Louisville, KY with an average of $130,936 per year
  • Edgewood, KY with an average of $106,271 per year
  • Glasgow, KY with an average of $99,200 per year
  • Lexington, KY with an average of $97,674 per year
  • Ashland, KY with an average of $84,889 per year
  • Cynthiana, KY with an average of $81,422 per year
  • Corbin, KY with an average of $78,793 per year

Consider exploring job prospects and salary ranges in these cities to enhance your earning potential.


If you’re looking for a career that’s both fulfilling and in high demand in Kentucky, consider becoming a nurse by earning a nursing degree, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, gaining experience, and obtaining your nursing license through the Kentucky Board of Nursing. Not only will you have the chance to impact people’s lives positively, but the job prospects are excellent. It may be a challenging journey, but the opportunities of being a nurse in the Bluegrass state are worth it.

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