Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Florida

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As of the 2010 Census, 23 percent of Florida’s 18 million-plus people were 60 or older compared to 18 percent nationally. Unsurprisingly, older populations have more healthcare needs, which translates to a greater demand for nurses. RNs and advanced practice nurses who can see themselves in Florida should keep reading to get the inside scoop on state licensure, schools, salaries, and employment trends.

Top 10 Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Florida 4-Year Coleges

Rank School Location
1 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL
2 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
4 Jacksonville University Jacksonville, FL
5 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
6 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL
7 Florida International University Miami, FL
8 Florida Southern College Lakeland, FL
9 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
10 The University of Tampa Tampa, FL
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  • Methodology +


    BEST 4-YEAR NURSING SCHOOLS

    The top nursing programs listed in this state’s ranking were determined by comparison of three primary, equally-weighted criteria including

    • Student-to-faculty ration
    • In-state tuition
    • Graduation rate

    Additional details for each school were included:

    • Count of programs available
    • Public and not-for-profit schools
    • Normalized on a 100 percent curve

    The methodology used for tie-break is as follows…

    • Ties are broken based on lowest average net price for full-time, first-time undergraduates paying in-state tuition (average cost of tuition and expenses after grants and scholarships).
    • If necessary, the lowest in-state tuition rate is used as a second tie-break


Top Nursing Schools in Florida

  • University of Miami
    Location

    Coral Gables, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    With three campuses in the Miami area, UM has trained nurses for over 70 years. Boasting state-of-the-art training facilities, this private research university is home to one of the best nursing schools in Florida.

    Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, UM's four-year, 121-credit BSN program prepares students to sit for RN licensing exams in Florida. Three school-affiliated hospitals and a network of clinical partners provide diverse opportunities for clinical practice. Students build career skills and master healthcare technology at the school's simulation hospital. Multiple student organizations facilitate learning, networking, and peer support.

    Applicants with a prior bachelor's degree or RN licensure may consider UM's 55-credit accelerated BSN program or 60-credit RN-to-BSN program. UM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The state's flagship public university, UF trains nurses to enter the workforce as generalist practitioners. The Gainesville-based school offers three paths to earning a BSN degree.

    Students in the traditional BSN program complete general education and pre-professional lower-division requirements before pursuing the four-semester BSN program. Students with a previous degree or RN licensure may enter as upper-division students, taking 4-5 semesters of career-specific training through the school's accelerated or RN-to-BSN programs.

    The 60-credit BSN curriculum covers subjects including pathophysiology, pharmacology, and clinical reasoning. Nursing students enjoy access to simulation facilities, a teaching hospital, student organizations, and an honors program. Clinical practice allows candidates to gain experience providing care to diverse populations.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The school's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public research university recognized for promoting diversity, FSU serves almost 42,000 students annually. The school's two-year BSN program, offered on its main campus in Tallahassee, prepares graduates to take national licensing exams.

    Before entering the BSN program, students must complete general education requirements in math, science, humanities, and social science. Once admitted, they complete a 60-credit curriculum that covers fundamental nursing concepts and practices. Students can tailor the degree to their interests through electives on topics like women's health; grief, loss, and trauma; substance abuse; and multicultural issues.

    FSU freshmen can join the school's Nursing Learning Community, which offers opportunities for learning and mentorship. The school's Veterans BSN program provides special support to veterans transitioning into nursing school.

    FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • Jacksonville University
    Location

    Jacksonville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Florida's largest city, JU's Keigwin School of Nursing offers a BSN program with multiple pathways. While many nursing programs in Florida only admit upper-division students, freshmen can take advantage of the school's Freshman Acceptance Program. Students in this program receive mentorship from senior nursing students and take nursing courses throughout all four years of their college experience.

    Students with an associate degree or completed core coursework and prerequisites can apply for the traditional BSN program, which takes 28 months to complete. The school's accelerated, 16-month second-degree program accepts applicants with a bachelor's degree. An RN-to-BSN option, available online and in hybrid format, welcomes practicing RNs with an associate degree.

    JU's nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public research university, UCF enrolls almost 70,000 students annually at its 12 Orlando-area campuses and online. The school's College of Nursing prepares graduates to obtain licensure as registered nurses in Florida.

    Students without a nursing background can complete UCF's traditional 120-credit BSN in four years of full-time study. The first two years of the program cover prerequisites and general education requirements. The junior and senior years delve into career-specific coursework and clinical practice.

    The school's accelerated, four-semester BSN track is designed for learners with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field. Agreements with area community colleges allow students to earn an ADN and BSN concurrently, shortening their time to the degree. The school also offers an online RN-to-BSN program.

    UCF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • University of South Florida-Main Campus
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Tampa, USF offers several nursing degree programs geared toward first-time college students, individuals with prior degrees, and veterans transitioning to civilian careers. Students in all of the school's BSN programs benefit from a fully accredited simulation lab, study abroad programs, and a community service corps.

    The upper-division track accepts students who have completed pre-nursing requirements at USF or other institutions. A freshman entry track allows first-year students to begin nursing coursework earlier than they could at many BSN programs in Florida.

    Applicants with medical experience in the military can pursue the four-semester V-Care pathway. ADN candidates at Hillsborough Community College can earn a BSN from USF concurrently. Current RNs can choose from several specializations as part of a 3-5-semester online RN-to-BSN track.

    USF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public research university located in Miami, FIU enrolls over 1,000 students annually in its three BSN programs. Emphasizing technological and multicultural competence, FIU's Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences prepares graduates to sit for NCLEX exams.

    FIU's generic BSN program is open to applicants who have completed 60 credits of core coursework at FIC, an associate degree from a Florida community college, or a bachelor's degree. This upper-division program comprises five semesters of nursing coursework.

    Applicants who hold non-nursing bachelor's degrees and demonstrate completion of nursing prerequisites may pursue the 61-credit, four-semester accelerated BSN option. Both generic and accelerated program applicants must take the TEAS exam. A 30-credit online RN-to-BSN program admits RNs with a Florida license.

    FIU's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Florida Southern College
    Location

    Lakeland, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The oldest private college in the state, Florida Southern offers both a direct-entry BSN program and an RN-to-BSN program. With graduates achieving a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX exams, the Lakeland-based college ranks among the best nursing schools in Florida.

    Florida Southern's direct-entry BSN is intended for incoming freshmen. Due to the structure of the program, transfer entry is limited. Direct-entry students begin nursing coursework in their first year. Successful completion of the freshman year curriculum enables learners to progress to clinical practice in their second year. Simulation labs and courses in diverse aspects of nursing practice prepare students for internship and practicum experiences in their senior year. Licensed RNs may apply to Florida Southern's RN-to-BSN program.

    Florida Southern is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  • Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    NSU offers two undergraduate nursing tracks through its Ron and Kathy Assaf College of Nursing. The 82-credit traditional BSN program accepts applicants with 39 completed credits of general education and prerequisite nursing courses. Once accepted, students typically earn their degree in 27 months.

    The school's pre-nursing program covers prerequisite coursework and is designed for underclassmen who plan to apply to the BSN program in their junior year. Applicants who already hold a bachelor's degree may apply for the 64-credit accelerated BSN. This lockstep program requires four semesters of full-time study.

    Like many of the best nursing programs in Florida, NSU's programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • The University of Tampa
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UT offers a four-year BSN program through its College of Natural and Health Sciences. Designed for learners without previous nursing education, this 125-credit program is one of the Tampa-based school's most popular undergraduate majors.

    Students begin their nursing education by declaring a pre-nursing major. Math and science prerequisites develop students' quantitative reasoning skills. Courses in writing and social science build communication skills and cultural competence. Once they complete prerequisite courses and take the TEAS exam, learners can apply to the BSN program. Major coursework builds professional skills; provides hands-on experience; and addresses topics including leadership, community health, and care across the lifespan.

    UT's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Filtering for Quality Nursing Schools in Florida

Florida requires that nursing programs within its borders stay in good standing by ensuring at least 70 percent of their graduates pass the NCLEX. Unfortunately, according to a 2015 exposé by the Sun Sentinel, a third of schools failed to meet this threshold, and those that do not improve will go on probation. This means it is vitally important to carefully vet nursing schools in Florida and choose one with a good track record of preparing students to pass the licensure exam. The search tool below can help.

Obtaining a Florida Nursing License

In Florida, all nurses receive their licenses through the Florida Board of Nursing, including RNs and advanced practice nurses. In addition, the board monitors and educates licensees to ensure they are providing quality care to patients. The agency also disciplines nurses who have been reported for professional violations. The initial licensing process is detailed below:

Requirements for Initial Licensure in Florida

  • Graduate from a board-approved nursing program with a valid NCLEX code
  • Electronically submit an application to the Board of Nursing along with a $110 application and licensing fee
  • Register for the NCLEX-RN with Pearson VUE, pay the mandatory testing fee and pass the exam
  • Schedule an appointment with a LiveScan service provider for electronic fingerprinting

Anyone who does not pass the NCLEX-RN must reapply. Those who fail three times and wish to take the NCLEX a fourth time must enroll in a state-approved refresher course. RNs with a valid license to practice in another state, who have completed the State Board Test Pool Examination (SBTPE) or the NCLEX, or have actively practice nursing elsewhere in the US for two of the preceding three years in good standing can apply for licensure by endorsement.

Applicants with criminal records must supply additional materials, including an explanation of the offense, parole records, and three letters of recommendation.

Renewal Requirements in Florida

Florida mandates that nurses renew their license every two years. Most, but not all, RNs and APRNs can renew their licenses online. The renewal process involves:

  • Submitting a renewal application online or by mail
  • Paying an $80 fee
  • Presenting evidence of 29 hours of continuing education in specified areas, including medical error, Florida laws and rules, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, recognizing impairment in the workplace, and general hours

Nurses who have let their licenses lapse for more than two years may have to take an exam to show they remain competent in the field.

Becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse in FL

In Florida, advanced practice nurses are known as Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs), a group that includes nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives. ARNPs need to first have an RN license in the state. They must also:

  • Fill out an application
  • Pay a $100 fee to transition from an RN to an ARNP license or $210 for a joint RN/ARNP license
  • Have a master’s degree in their specialty
  • Show evidence of national certification in the specialty
  • Have taken a two-hour course entitled Prevention of Medical Errors
  • Submit documentation of malpractice insurance via the board’s financial responsibility form
  • Have their fingerprints taken

Since everyone’s situation is different, it may be helpful to reference the state’s Board of Nursing website for more information on advanced nursing requirements.

Florida’s Nursing Numbers

With more Americans having access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, and with an aging population developing chronic conditions that require regular medical care, the country will see a dramatic surge in the need for nurses. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2014 and 2024, jobs in the nursing profession will increase by 16 percent across the country. And jobs for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives are expected to increase by an astonishing 31 percent. The lion’s share of that job growth will be generated in 10 states, with Florida being one of them. See below for how those jobs will pay.

Top-Paying Areas for RNs in Florida

AreaHourly Median WageAnnual Median Wage
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach Metropol$33.12$68,880
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach Metropolitan$31.88$66,300
Palm Coast$31.36$65,230
Naples-Marco Island$30.41$63,260
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach$30.41$63,250
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota$29.80$61,970
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford$29.68$61,730
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater$29.58$61,520
Jacksonville$29.48$61,320
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville$29.41$61,180

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Florida vs. National Numbers

[graph-block]

Salary

YearAnnual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)Annual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)
Registered Nurse$52,740$60,920$72,030$0$54,620$66,640$81,080
Certified Nurse Midwife$78,350$88,900$101,140$0$82,580$96,970$114,090
Nurse Anesthetist$124,280$142,440$162,200$0$132,380$153,780$181,860
Nurse Practitioner$79,560$90,120$102,640$0$82,720$95,350$113,470

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 

Employment

TOTAL EMPLOYMENT (2014)

TypeFloridaNational
Registered Nurse163,9502,687,310
Certified Nurse Midwife3005,110
Nurse Anesthetist2,97036,590
Nurse Practitioner6,990122,050

2022 OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK

TypeFloridaNational
Registered Nurse201,1403,238,400
Certified Nurse Midwife3707,700
Nurse Anesthetist3,24043,900
Nurse Practitioner8,540147,300

AVG. ANNUAL OPENINGS (2012 – 2022)

TypeFloridaNational
Registered Nurse6,680105,260
Certified Nurse Midwife20290
Nurse Anesthetist1401,560
Nurse Practitioner3405,850

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 and Projections Central

Organizations for Florida Nurses

Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists

According to FANA, there are 3,500 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists in the state. It represents all of them, as well as the patients they help, by serving as the main advocacy group for the specialty in the state.

Florida Board of Nursing

The Board of Nursing is the best resource for information related to licensing. It covers healthcare professionals from practical nurses to registered nurses to advanced practice nurses.

Florida Emergency Nurses Association

Nurses who specialize in emergency care can join the Florida Emergency Nurses Association to connect with others in their subspecialty. In recent years, the group has partnered with emergency physicians, worked alongside a state task force on workplace violence, and provided scholarships to attend emergency nursing certification courses.

Florida Nurses Association

FNA is a constituent member of the American Nurses Association. The organization provides its members with job leads, professional publications and networking opportunities.

Florida Nurse Practitioner Network

The Florida Nurse Practitioner Network is dedicated to providing professional development to nurses through education, events and job leads. It publishes a vibrant calendar of opportunities on its website.

Florida Nursing Students Association

The Florida Nursing Students Association provides resources to students who are working on their nursing degrees. Members can join simply by participating in their college’s local chapter.

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