A Guide to Nursing in Illinois
Deep dish pizza? The mob? What’s not to love? A visit to Millenium Park in Chicago is a must. So are the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan and a walk on the 3,300 foot Navy Pier. Or travel to the state capital, Springfield, and visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Take a step back in time and check out the Treasures Gallery. No matter where you turn, Illinois offers something for everyone.
If you are a registered nurse (or are thinking of becoming one) read on to find the information you need, from licensing info, continuing education requirements, job & salary outlook, top hospitals, and nursing associations. Let us help you find your dream job!
In this article, we will cover:
Below are the fees for becoming a nurse in Illinois whether you are a first-time nurse or are moving to Illinois from another state. For more information visit the Illinois licensing page.
Licensing fees by examination (first-time nurses):
NCLEX fee: $200
Application fee: $98
Licensing fees by endorsement (already have RN licensure):
Application fee: $50
License renewal fee:
Application fee: $80
*Fees are subject to change.
**Most states require a background check, but prices are not always listed.
Steps for renewing an Illinois nursing license
Verify the status of your license Visit the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for specifics.
Complete your Illinois nursing continuing education requirements before your license expires You can complete your nursing CEUs online, on your schedule, and 100% free with Incredible Health.
Go to the Illinois Board of Nursing site to enter your renewal application Visit the Renewal Information page for specifics.
Continuing education requirements
RN/LPN: 20 contact hours every 2 years
APRN: 50 contact hours every 2 years
Job & salary outlook for nurses in Illinois
Due to the shortage of nurses, these healthcare professionals are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates the profession will grow by about 9% between 2020-2030. The mean annual wage is $74,560.
We can also help you check out salary estimates to help determine if Illinois is the right state for you.
[ MORE: Average nurse salary in Illinois ]
Top hospitals in Illinois
If you’re not already picking up the phone to call movers, maybe this list of the best hospitals in Illinois will sway you in the right direction. Here are the top hospitals according to U.S. News and World Report:
Northwestern Memorial Hospital – Chicago, IL: Ranked No. 10 in the nation and part of the Magnet Recognition Program®, this facility is “dedicated to consistently providing high-quality, cost-effective, patient-focused care.” Some specialties include:
Conditions related to cancer
Orthopedics (#19 in the nation)
Cardiology & heart surgery
Urology (#11 in the nation)
Rush University Medical Center – Chicago, IL: This hospital is ranked No. 19 on the Best Hospitals Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL is ranked No. 10 on the Best Hospitals Honor Roll. Honor Roll and is part of the Magnet Recognition Program®, making this a destination hospital for many. Rush’s five core values are “innovation, collaboration, accountability, respect and excellence.” Some specialties include:
Neurology & Neurosurgery (#3 in the nation)
Pulmonology & lung surgery
University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago, IL: This hospital is part of the Magnet Recognition Program® and focuses on “advancing the forefront of health every day by bringing research to reality and advanced care closer to our patients.” They also recognize nurses with special awards for excellence in service. Some specialties include:
Comprehensive Stroke Center
*Magnet status – Awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and is considered the “gold standard” for excellence in nursing practice and care. Hospitals must meet certain criteria and apply to be designated.
Nursing organizations & associations in Illinois
Once you become a registered nurse (or even if you’re in the process), joining a nursing organization or association will give you access to networking, job opportunities, and a wealth of information shared between fellow nurses. Here are a few of the organizations and associations for nurses in Illinois:
American Nurses Association – Illinois: This association’s purpose is to “work toward coordination and cooperation among participating nursing organizations in issues that relate to nursing practice, education, research and other matters of mutual concern.”
National Association of Hispanic Nurses: This association is “dedicated to enriching the lives of Hispanic nurse individuals through the promotion of academic attainment, mentorship, professional development, and by actively reshaping healthcare in the Hispanic community.
American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Illinois: This association is “committed to the practice of psychiatric-mental health nursing, health and wellness promotion through identification of mental health issues, prevention of mental health problems, and the care and treatment of persons with mental health disorders.”
Check out the comprehensive list of national organizations as well.
Basic steps for licensing and certifications
Step 1: Education
Attend an accredited nursing school to earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). An ADN will take between 18 and 24 months to complete, while you can expect to spend roughly four years to earn a BSN. If you already have an ADN, there is an ADN to BSN bridge program that allows you to earn a BSN in 12-18 months. There is also an RN to BSN bridge which takes three semesters of nursing courses to be completed in one year. These programs will save you time and money. The more education you have, the better your chances of landing your dream job.
Step 2: Licensing
When you are six weeks away from graduation, you can apply to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. There are 75 to 265 questions on the NCLEX-RN with a five-hour time limit for completion. If you do not pass the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt, you must wait 45 days before you can try again.
The NCLEX includes questions on the following topics to test nursing candidates knowledge
1. Safe and effective care environment
2. Health promotion and maintenance
3. Psychosocial integrity
4. Physiological integrity
Step 3: Experience
This step in the process is to gain hands-on experience. This will provide you with invaluable opportunities to work with patients making you attractive to future employers.
Step 4: Certification
The final step is to obtain certifications for your chosen career. Requirements for earning a certification vary so it is important to check with the governing body for information. Incredible Health offers free courses in order to obtain or renew certification requirements. Create a free account to access professional development mandates and get instant certificates.
Illinois Board of Nursing
Phone: (888) 473-4858
Physical address (Chicago):
100 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601
Physical address (Springfield):
320 W. Washington
Springfield, IL 62786