Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Washington [2022 Guide]

Updated August 24, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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In 2014, more than 4,200 students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in Washington, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. During the past five years, an initiative was launched to increase those enrollment numbers. Supported by grants from organizations such as the Robert Wood Foundation, the initiative has two goals: meet the skyrocketing demand for nursing care in light of a rapidly aging population and develop an adequate level of nursing capacity in high-demand areas. Learn about the potential of the nursing profession in Washington, educational options, and nurse licensure requirements to enter the field. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria: Accredited at the institutional level Private nonprofit or public school Minimum of 1 bachelor's or master's degree in subject area for 4-year schools Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools Schools were then scored on factors such as: Cost & Financial Aid Number and variety of program offerings Student-teacher ratios Graduation rates (4-year schools only) Placement and support services offered Academic/Career counseling services Employment services Loan default rates These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or "bang for your buck" of a college or degree program.

Top Nursing Schools in Washington

4 - Year Colleges

  1. Gonzaga University

    Spokane, WA

  2. Pacific Lutheran University

    Tacoma, WA

  3. Seattle University

    Seattle, WA

  4. Washington State University

    Pullman, WA

  5. University of Washington

    Seattle, WA

  6. Seattle Pacific University

    Seattle, WA

  7. Whitworth University

    Spokane, WA

  8. Lake Washington Institute of Technology

    Kirkland, WA

  9. Green River Community College

    Auburn, WA

  10. Peninsula College

    Port Angeles, WA

2 - Year Colleges

The Licensure Process in Washington

The Washington Nursing Commission is the regulating body for the nursing field in the state of Washington. RNs interested in practicing in this state must meet the commission's requirements for a license, which include the following:

Eligibility Requirements

  • Graduate from a state-approved nursing education program
  • Complete and pass a background check through the Washington State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Submit an online application and $88 fee
  • Answer a personal profile questionnaire
  • Complete seven hours of AIDS/HIV training
  • Graduates of in-state nursing programs must have official transcripts sent from the school to the Nursing Commission
  • Out-of-state nursing students must have a verification form completed by their program director and sent to the Nursing Commission
  • Register for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) with Pearson VUE and pay a $200 testing fee
  • Wait to receive an Authorization to Test (ATT)
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN

The License Renewal Process in Washington

Washington RNs are required to renew their license every year. Renewal applications can be submitted online and must be completed on or before the applicant's birthday. To qualify, nurses must complete at least 531 hours of nursing practice and 45 credit hours of approved continuing education every three years. The renewal application fee is $97.

ARNP Licensure in WA

The licensing process for advanced registered nurses practitioners is similar to that of registered nurses. The Washington Nursing Commission recognizes the following national certification programs for APRNs: American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, American College of Nurse Midwives, American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, National Certification Corporation, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. In addition to the requirements for RN licensure, APRNs must do the following:

  • Submit online application and pay a $92 fee
  • Hold a valid and active RN license in Washington
  • Submit official transcripts in a sealed envelope as proof of completion of an approved graduate program
  • Provide evidence of national certification, which must come directly from a national certifying organization
  • Submit employment verification that demonstrates at least 250 hours of advanced nursing practice in your specialized field. However, this is not required if you graduated the same year you submitted your application

More information and details for ARNPs, including updates and license verification can be found at the Washington State Department of Health.

Career Outlook for RNs in Washington

The state of Washington is home to nearly 85,000 licensed registered nurses, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. However, a workforce study from University of Washington School of Medicine estimates that within the next 15 years there will be a service gap of 18,000 positions in the state. In turn, employment data from the Employment Security Department in Washington State projects strong occupational growth in nursing between 2013 and 2023. Explore the employment and salary numbers for registered nurses in Washington below.

Top-Paying Areas for RNs in Washington

AreaHourly Median WageAnnual Median Wage
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division$40.23$83,690
Tacoma Metropolitan Division$37.78$78,580
Wenatchee-East Wenatchee$35.14$73,080
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area$34.28$71,300
Mount Vernon-Anacortes$34.23$71,200

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Washington vs. National Numbers

YearAnnual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)Annual salary(25th percentile)Annual salary(median)Annual salary(75th percentile)
Registered Nurse$62,730$77,520$93,880$0$54,620$66,640$81,080
Certified Nurse Midwife$83,960$92,840$107,220$0$82,580$96,970$114,090
Nurse Anesthetist$123,510$161,800$0$0$132,380$153,780$181,860
Nurse Practitioner$86,170$99,610$115,910$0$82,720$95,350$113,470
Registered Nurse51,6002,687,310
Certified Nurse Midwife805,110
Nurse Anesthetist25036,590
Nurse Practitioner2,390122,050
Registered Nurse65,2103,238,400
Certified Nurse Midwife1407,700
Nurse Anesthetist48043,900
Nurse Practitioner3,070147,300
Registered Nurse2,230105,260
Certified Nurse Midwife10290
Nurse Anesthetist201,560
Nurse Practitioner1105,850

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 and Projections Central

Washington RN Resources

ARNPs United of Washington State

The ARNPs United of Washington State is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the work of advanced registered nurse practitioners through continuing education programs, networking events, public policy advocacy, and a career center.

King County Nurses Association

The King County Nurses Association is a professional organization with more than 3,200 registered nurses from all specializations and areas of practice. Through memberships, scholarships, networking events, and nursing education programs, the KCNA supports professional development of nurses in Washington state.

Nursing Students of Washington State

Nursing Students of Washington State is the state-based chapter of the National Student Nurses Association. Membership is open to students enrolled in accredited nursing schools in the state and offers a variety of resources and support, including scholarships.

Puget Sound Nurse Practitioner Association

Founded in 1998, the Puget Sound Nurse Practitioners Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes the work and professional development of advanced practice nurse practitioners in Puget Sound. Washington Center for Nursing

The Washington Center for Nursing supports the development of a skilled nursing workforce through a variety of means, including mentoring programs, diversity efforts, and continuing education programs for nurses.

Washington Nursing Commission

The Washington Nursing Commission is a division of the Washington State Department of Health and is responsible for regulating the practice of nursing in the state. It manages the licensing and renewal process, sets guidelines for professional practice, and handles disciplinary action for registered nurses.

Washington State Association of Occupational Health Nurses

The Washington State Association of Occupational Health Nurses is an arm of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses. It is the primary organization that supports occupational health nursing in Washington and offers an array of resources, including a career center, memberships, and networking events.

Washington State Nurses Association

The Washington State Nurses Association is the largest nursing association in the state, serving more than 75,000 licensed nursing professionals in every specialty and role. It supports the nursing profession through legislative action, continuing education programs, and nursing unions.

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