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Nursing Certificates and License Information

Licensed practical nurse (LPN) certificate programs provide instruction and training that are essential for passing the NCLEX-PN. Read on for an overview of the requirements and qualifications necessary for a nursing license.

There are multiple certificate programs available for aspiring nurses as well as nurses seeking to specialize in a certain field or practice. To enter the LPN certificate program for aspiring nurses, students must have a high school diploma, or the equivalent, and possibly, have completed specialized courses such as CPR or First Aid.

Essential Information

The most common type of nursing certificate program is designed for aspiring practical nurses. LPN certificate programs provide classroom and clinical instruction in subjects like geriatric and pediatric nursing, pharmacology, mental health nursing and ambulatory care. After completing one of these programs and meeting additional requirements, students sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) in order to become licensed.

Required Education High school diploma or GED and completion of certificate program
Required Skills CPR and first aid training; essential nursing techniques
Exam Requirements State nursing board approval; Authorization to Test (ATT) document
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16%*
Median Salary (2015) $43,170*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certificate Program Admission Requirements

LPN students must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or GED before they can sit for the licensing exam. Certificate program admission requirements often include CPR and first aid training, HIV training certification and a state Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license. Students may also have to provide immunization records, tuberculosis skin test results and proof of health insurance. Prerequisite courses - such as anatomy, biology and medical terminology - may need to be taken prior to enrollment.

NCLEX-PN Exam Information

Preparing for the Exam

For most candidates, the first step in preparing for the NCLEX-PN exam is to register by submitting a licensure application before the deadline to the applicant's state board of nursing. The candidate then registers via the Internet, U.S. mail or telephone. Once the board of nursing approves the applicant to sit for the exam, an Authorization to Test (ATT) document is issued for the applicant to present at the test location. Once the registration process is completed, the candidate can schedule an exam date.

Exam Format

According to National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the NCLEX-PN exam is given via an adaptive computerized method that adjusts the level of question difficulty as the test progresses based on the candidate's previous responses (www.ncsbn.org). NCLEX-PN candidates are given up to five hours to complete the exam, including a tutorial session and two predetermined breaks. Every test question has only one correct answer; partial credit is not given on any of the answers. The test format includes drag and drop, multiple choice and fill in the blank responses. Once the exam is completed, the applicant raises his or her hand and the test administrator collects the exam and all other exam materials.

Other Types of Nursing Certificates

There are a number of post-bachelor's and post-master's degree certificate programs available for nurses seeking to focus on a particular specialization within the nursing field. These programs typically consist of 15-30 credits and often can be completed online. Some of the common areas of specialization include community and public health practice, child mental health intervention, nursing education, family mental health nurse practitioner, geriatric nursing and cardiovascular nursing.

For students to prepare for the certified nurse exam, it is helpful if they have their state nursing license as well as their immunization records available. Students should also have completed courses in physical anatomy and medical terminology. Nurses can also chose to specialize in fields such as nursing education and geriatric nursing through the completion of specialized certification programs.


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