Nursing Schools and Licensing Requirements in Wisconsin

According to research from the Wisconsin Center for Nursing, the state will need to increase its RN workforce, particularly APRNs, by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020 in order to meet the state’s health care industry needs. This research, however, notes that one major barrier to address this issue is not a lack of interested students, but rather the lack of classroom educators and access to practicum and clinical opportunities. In an effort to combat these problems, nursing schools in Wisconsin are expanding their graduate programs to help current RNs advance into educator roles. Schools have also implemented high-fidelity simulations to give current nursing students an opportunity to gain clinical experience in a setting that is as close to real world as possible so they graduate with the proper hands-on experience. Learn more about nursing schools in Wisconsin, how to obtain a state license, and salary and employment outlook for that state’s RNs.

Top Nursing Schools in Wisconsin



    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 10 Bachelor Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

Rank School Location
1 Edgewood College Madison, WI
2 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
3 Bellin College Green Bay, WI
4 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
5 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI
6 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
7 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI
8 College of Menominee Nation Keshena, WI
9 Alverno College Milwaukee, WI
10 Madison Area Technical College Madison, WI

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  1. Edgewood College

    Madison, WI

  2. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI

  3. Bellin College

    Green Bay, WI

  4. Viterbo University

    La Crosse, WI

  5. Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI

  6. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    Eau Claire, WI

  7. Concordia University-Wisconsin

    Mequon, WI

  8. College of Menominee Nation

    Keshena, WI

  9. Alverno College

    Milwaukee, WI

  10. Madison Area Technical College

    Madison, WI

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Top 10 Associate Nursing Schools in Wisconsin

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  1. Chippewa Valley Technical College

    Eau Claire, WI

  2. Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

    Fennimore, WI

  3. Blackhawk Technical College

    Janesville, WI

  4. Lakeshore Technical College

    Cleveland, WI

  5. Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College

    Shell Lake, WI

  6. Mid-State Technical College

    Wisconsin Rapids, WI

  7. Fox Valley Technical College

    Appleton, WI

  8. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

    Green Bay, WI

  9. Nicolet Area Technical College

    Rhinelander, WI

  10. Moraine Park Technical College

    Fond du Lac, WI

Licensure Information for RNs in Wisconsin

The State of Wisconsin Board of Nursing is part of the Department of Safety and Professional Services. The board regulates the nursing practice in the state and manages the licensing and renewal process for both registered nurses and individuals working in advanced practice RN roles. To practice nursing in the state legally, an RN must hold an active and valid license from the Board of Nursing. Below is an overview of the common licensing requirements.

Eligibility for Licensure

  • Graduate from high school, or the equivalent, and complete postsecondary education from an accredited school of nursing approved by the Wisconsin Board of Nursing
  • Have a Wisconsin board-approved statement of graduation sent directly to the Board from the school
  • Graduates of out-of-state board-approved schools in the United States, must have official transcripts sent to the Board of Nursing after graduation
  • Submit online application and a $90 fee ($75 Initial Credential Fee and a $15 Contract Exam Fee). Those requesting a temporary permit will need to pay an additional $10 fee.
  • Register for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) with Pearson VUE and take the exam after receiving an Authorization to Test (ATT)

Renewal Requirements

RNs in Wisconsin must renew their licenses on February 28 or February 29 of even years. Even if the nurse received his or her initial license in the same year, he or she must still renew the license by the deadline. The renewal period begins early January and ends March 1. The cost to renew is $86 and those who miss the deadline will need to pay a total of $111, which includes a late fee. In addition, registered nurses are required to complete a Nursing Workforce Survey (SVY) to qualify for licensure renewal. Created and enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development in 2009, this survey is a way to collect crucial information on the state’s nursing profession. The state uses this information to create a report once every two years on the supply of, demand for, and turnover of Wisconsin RNs and LPNs. License renewal will not be processed if the applicant does not complete the survey.

Advanced Practice Nursing Licensure

In addition to RNs and LPNS, the Wisconsin Board of Nursing oversees the certification process for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers (APNP). APNPs must acquire an RN license (they may apply for APNP certification and RN licensure simultaneously) as well as complete the following:

  • Graduate from an approved advanced nursing education program
  • Complete and submit an application for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber and all other required forms and paperwork
  • Verify current national board certification in specialized role (nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist)
  • Request and submit verification of licensure from any state where the applicant has held or his holding prescriptive authority
  • Take and pass an online jurisprudence examination for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers
  • Individuals with prescribing authority must hold and present verification of malpractice insurance coverage
  • Complete at least 45 contact hours in approved clinical pharmacology/therapeutics courses at within three years prior to submitting the application

Find more information and forms for RNs and APNPs at the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

RN Career Outlook in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is home to nearly 100,000 registered nurses, including more than 5,100 practicing nursing in advanced positions, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In order to meet the expected need for primary nursing care, the state of Wisconsin will need to increase the nursing workforce by 2020, according to the Public Policy Forum. This growth is largely created by two converging factors: a rapidly aging population and the expected retirement of nurses across the state. Employment opportunities for registered nurses are anticipated to reach between 13 percent and 28 percent in each specialty, from registered nursing to midwifery, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Learn more about the occupational outlook for nursing careers in the state of Wisconsin.

Top-Paying Areas for RNs in Wisconsin

AreaHourly Median WageAnnual Median Wage
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis$33.25$69,160
La Crosse-Onalaska$31.68$65,890
Western Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area$31.17$64,830
Eau Claire$30.37$63,160
Northwestern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area$30.15$62,720

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Wisconsin vs. National Numbers





Wisconsin Resources for RNs

Wisconsin Center for Nursing
Launched in 2005, the Wisconsin Center for Nursing was created to address the nursing shortage in the state of Wisconsin. The organization is active in four major areas, including nursing education and preparation, leadership opportunities, data collection, and developing community and private partnerships to drive the recruitment and retention of nurses in the state.

Wisconsin Chapter of American Psychiatric Nurses Association
The state chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, the Wisconsin chapter is a membership-based association. Founded in 1986, the association supports nurses through continuing education conferences and programs, hosts networking events, and scholarships.

Wisconsin Nurses Association
The Wisconsin Nurses Association is a membership-based organization that supports the 80,000 registered nurses in the state of Wisconsin. As the state’s only approved nursing lobbying group, the WNA advocates on behalf of nurses, provides approved continuing education programs, and hosts a range of networking and professional events.

Wisconsin State Board of Nursing
In Wisconsin, the State Board of Nursing oversees and regulates the practice of nursing in the state. Working with the state legislature, the board sets licensing requirements, handles complaints and disciplinary hearings, and manages the licensing and renewal process.

Wisconsin Student Nurses Association
The Wisconsin Student Nurses Association is the state branch of the National Student Nurses’ Association. Through a combination of professional development programs, scholarships, mentoring and leadership opportunities, the WSNA fosters the growth of the next generation of nurses.

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