Nurse: Continuing Education Requirements for Nurses

Sep 12, 2019

Some nurses are required to complete ongoing education to keep their skills and licenses up to date, while others enroll in such courses to specialize in a new area of practice, prepare for further education, or advance professionally. Options vary by institution and by region, but generally a wide array of courses and seminars are available to nurses.

Essential Information

Some employers may mandate continuing education for their nurses to stay actively employed, while state boards may require it to maintain licensure. Nurses can choose from a variety of course topics as they apply to their work, or they may need to complete specific courses for licensure or to satisfy employer requirements. Continuing education (CE) in nursing is available in a wide variety of forms for nurses across all levels of experience.

Career Title Registered Nurse
Required Education Diploma, Associate's degree or Bachelor's degree from an approved nursing program
Other Requirements Licensure is required. Continuing education requirements determined by employer or state
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 16%
Median Salary (2018)* $67,490

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Continuing Education for Nurses

Continuing education courses are courses that nurses take once they've completed a nursing program and received their license. These courses can be general or specific in nature. Continuing education courses are not always required, unless they are specific to an employer's needs, state license or certification renewal. Regardless, most CE generally needs to be completed within set time frames, such as once every three years.

CE courses are typically offered under the guise of professional growth and development for working nurses. Due to the variety of education options and institutional choices available, these courses can be available to those of all levels of nursing experience.

Types of Continuing Education

Continuing nursing education can take shape in many forms. Both short and long term courses are available, as well as seminars, lectures and even certification or refresher programs. Among the various course options available are:

  • Special health care problems
  • Biological, physical, behavioral and social sciences
  • Legal issues of health care
  • Nursing administration
  • Teaching of health care personnel and patients
  • Personal development
  • Registered nurse refreshers
  • Clinical practice review

The exact courses that are available depend on the academic institution, which an individual chooses to attend. These courses can be found at colleges, universities, and technical schools, both in-class and online. The admissions requirements vary depending on the academic institution.

Reasons for Taking Continuing Nursing Education

Nurses return to school to take continuing education courses to help them further develop their knowledge of a specific medical field. For instance, nurses may take courses on midwifery in order to increase their understanding of prenatal care. Other nurses will take CE courses to help them further their careers or prepare them to return to school to obtain a higher degree. The academic choices and desires of each nurse vary and the applicable continuing education options are additionally varied.


Entry-level nurses, such as licensed practical nurses may take CE courses in order to prepare them to become registered nurses (RNs). RNs may choose to take courses in order to learn about advance practice opportunities, such as becoming clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners. Once nurses advance into these roles, they may take CE courses in order to continue to develop professionally, gain credentialing or even prepare them to gain entry into doctor or nursing practice degree programs.

Maintaining Credentials

Some employers may require that nurses continue their education even though they are practicing. Finally, some credentials, such as those offered by the National Council of State Board of Nursing or the American Nurses Credentialing Center, require nurses to take CE courses in order to maintain active licensing status.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an annual median salary of $71,730 for registered nurses in 2018. According to BLS projections, jobs for these professionals should increase by 12%, or much faster than average, from 2018-2028.

Continuing education is a way to maintain and develop nursing skills. An employer or licensing board may mandate a certain type or amount of ongoing education, or a nurse may choose to pursue it for professional development or to enhance future opportunities. Nursing is a rapidly-growing field, with median salaries in the high $60,000s.

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