Before you can work as a nurse in the United States, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This guide lists the top states with the highest NCLEX pass rates for first-time test-takers, averaged over the past five years.
Compare NCLEX pass rates by state to find out where nurses are best prepared to practice.
What Is the NCLEX Exam?
The NCLEX is a standardized test that measures whether nursing school graduates have the necessary preparation and critical thinking skills to work as entry-level nurses. Candidates take either the NCLEX-PN to become licensed practical nurses or the NCLEX-RN to become registered nurses (RNs) to qualify for licensure by their state regulatory board.
Both exams cover nursing knowledge and practice readiness in four focus areas: safe and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.
According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX pass rate for 2022 was 79.9.%. But, as this guide reports, some states boast much higher first-time NCLEX pass rates.
Top 5 States With the Highest NCLEX Pass Rates Over Five Years
The NCLEX results by state show pass rates for first-time test-takers averaged over the past five years. Although each state sets its own pass rate requirement for licensure, the overall national NCLEX pass rate offers an important benchmark for program quality and nursing preparedness.
The following section highlights the five states with the top pass rates including some of the factors that contribute to their high ranking over the past five years.
1. New Hampshire
- NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 94.58%
- RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 92.8%
- RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 93.8%
- Total Number of Candidates (2021): 767
New Hampshire boasts the highest NCLEX pass rate average in the U.S., over 14% higher than the national average. In 2022, five of the state's eight bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs reported first-time pass rates above 90%, including a 100% rate for Plymouth State University. In the same year, the state's nine RN associate nursing programs all reported pass rates well above the national average, ranging from 80%-94.87%.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), New Hampshire employed 12,890 registered nurses in May 2021, providing just over 20 nurses per 1,000 residents. The healthy employment outlook for nurses in New Hampshire supports the high NCLEX pass rate, motivating nursing graduates to get licensure and enter the field quickly.
Although New Hampshire has kept pace with the demand for nurses, the U.S. Department of Labor projects the state will add over 880 RN positions between 2020 and 2030, an 8.8% increase. The state projects a 58.7% employment increase for RNs with advanced practice training as nurse practitioners, adding 640 positions through 2030.
The annual RN salary of $78,270 ranks 18th in the nation.
- NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 92.74%
- RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 86.8%
- RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 90.4%
- Total Number of Candidates (2021): 2,412
Louisiana ranks second among the top five schools for first-time NCLEX pass rates, while dealing with the highest nursing shortage in the nation. The state offers students several high-quality options for nursing education. Louisiana Technical University reports a six-year average NCLEX pass rate of over 97%. First-time NCLEX pass rates at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette have exceeded 95% for the last 38 years.
Louisiana's nursing shortfall has worsened since the COVID-19 crisis. Recently, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing has developed initiatives to move nurses into the workforce earlier to meet demand, contributing to the high pass rate, according to its 2021 annual report. The state projects the addition of over 2,270 RN positions each year through 2030.
RNs in Louisiana earn an average annual salary of $70,380, which ranks in the bottom half for the U.S. However, the promising employment outlook and low cost of living offset the less competitive earnings. RNs in Louisiana who pursue advanced nursing credentials as nurse practitioners can boost their salaries by over $42,000 a year.
3. North Dakota
- NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 92.36%
- RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 84.4%
- RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 91.5%
- Total Number of Candidates (2021): 650
The North Dakota Board of Nursing reported 100% pass rates in 2020-21 for BSN graduates at the University of Mary and Rasmussen University and a 91.5% overall average for all North Dakota nursing programs offering a BSN.
North Dakota projects a 13.9% increase in RN employment through 2030, adding 700 RN positions each year. In response to nursing shortages since the pandemic, the North Dakota Center for Nursing has established the Nurse Staffing Clearinghouse to recruit nursing students and help connect nurses with employers. The high pass rates and the expected demand for RNs reflect the statewide initiatives to enhance career opportunities for nursing graduates.
The annual average salary of $71,200 for North Dakota's RNs ranks in the lower third for all states. However, the recent efforts to expand job opportunities along with the state's low tax rate and low cost of living contribute to a positive career outlook for nurses.
- NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 91.36%
- RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 87.5%
- RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 88.3%
- Total Number of Candidates (2021): 1,488
Nevada's overall NCLEX pass rate average of 91.36% reflects ongoing statewide efforts to improve the quality of its nursing programs. In 2022, Great Basin College led the state with a first-time pass rate of 100%, followed by the University of Nevada at Reno with a pass rate of 94.56%.
The Nevada State Board of Nursing has undertaken several initiatives, including a nurse apprenticeship program, to address its nursing shortage. A 2022 study by the Nevada Health Workforce Research Center reports that the state needs more than 4,000 new RNs to meet the national RN-to-population average and that two out of every three residents live in an area with a shortage of primary care providers. The U.S. Department of Labor projects the number of RN positions in Nevada to grow by 23.3% between 2020 and 2030.
The current job market conditions for Nevada's nurses translate into higher than average salaries. RNs in the state earn a mean annual salary of $88,800, the 10th highest in the nation. RNs with nurse practitioner credentials make considerably more, averaging $123,680 a year.
5. North Carolina
- NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 91.12%
- RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 87.1%
- RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 87.1%
- Total Number of Candidates (2021): 4,645
Several of North Carolina's undergraduate nursing schools claim NCLEX pass rates in the 90th percentile. Western Carolina University's BSN program has a 99% three-year average pass rate. East Carolina University has a 97% three-year pass rate followed by Wingate University's 96% rate.
North Carolina faces a serious nursing shortage, with the demand outweighing supply by more than 10,000 positions over the next decade. Despite a projected increase of 11.5% in RN positions between 2020-2030, nursing salaries in the state continue to run below the national average. The mean annual RN salary of $71,200 ranks 35th in the nation. North Carolina's nursing shortage has also been impacted by the declining number of qualified nursing faculty which limits student enrollment.
To meet the expected shortfall, the state's Education Assistance Authority has established the Nurse Education Scholarship Loan Program (NESLP). The NESLP provides forgivable loans to qualified North Carolina residents committed to work as full-time nurses in the state.
The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina has also begun to address the nursing shortage by increasing enrollment, offering accelerated doctoral programs to train new nursing faculty, and establishing partnerships with healthcare employers.
Featured Online RN-to-BSN in Nursing Programs
Complete List of Average NCLEX Pass Rates by State
This table provides five-year average NCLEX pass rates and RN salary information. Pass rates provide prospective students and others with a useful benchmark of educational quality and nurse preparedness. Nursing accreditation agencies and regulatory bodies use pass rates as a key performance measure.
When comparing data, keep in mind that pass rates not only vary by state but also by nursing programs within a state. Several factors contribute to salary differences across states, including projected demand, cost of living differentials, and employment settings.
|State (including Washington D.C.)||NCLEX Pass Rate Five-Year Average (2017-2021)||Average Salary (2022)|
|District of Columbia||90.16%||$98,540|
A solution to ND's nursing shortage -- By nurses, for nurses. (n.d.). Nursing Network
Annual report. (2023). North Dakota State Board of Nursing
Annual reports. (n.d.). Louisiana State Board of Nursing
College of applied and natural sciences. (2023). Louisiana Tech University
Education NC. (2022). N.C. nursing shortage likely to increase, report shows. Can community colleges help? NC Health News
Long-term occupational projections (2020-2030): Louisiana. (2021). State of Utah Division of Technology Services
Long-term occupational projections (2020-2030): New Hampshire. (2021). State of Utah Division of Technology Services
Long-term occupational projections (2020-2030): North Carolina. (2021). State of Utah Division of Technology Services
Long-term occupational projections (2020-2030): North Dakota. (2021). State of Utah Division of Technology Services
Lynn M. (2022). North Carolina's: A looming crisis. Carolina Nursing
NCLEX pass rates. (2023). National Council of State Boards of Nursing
Nevada nursing news and events. (2018-2023). Nevada Nurses Association
News, publications, and statistics. (2023). North Carolina Board of Nursing
Rankings & recognition. (2023). University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Report 4 -- Jurisdiction program summary of all first-time candidates licensed in all jurisdictions. (2023). Nevada Board of Nursing
State Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics. (2022). U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
So let me put your mind at ease a little – the NCLEX is a national exam and is valid in any state you want to practice in. It does not vary from state to state. RNs in Georgia take the same NCLEX as RNs in Nevada for example.Is the NCLEX different in each state? ›
So let me put your mind at ease a little – the NCLEX is a national exam and is valid in any state you want to practice in. It does not vary from state to state. RNs in Georgia take the same NCLEX as RNs in Nevada for example.Which state is easiest to get RN license? ›
- Maine: 1-2 weeks.
- Maryland: 2-3 days.
- Missouri: 2 weeks.
- Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
- North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
- North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
- Texas: 2 weeks.
- Vermont: 3-5 business days.
None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.Is NCLEX easier than nursing school? ›
Unlike nursing school exams, which test for knowledge, the NCLEX tests your ability to apply and analyze situations using the nursing knowledge you gained in school. Logic and critical thinking, rather than rote memorization, are emphasized in this test—making it much more difficult and comprehensive.Does the location matter in NCLEX? ›
Does It Matter Where I Take the NCLEX? No, it doesn't matter where you take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam, therefore new grad nurses can take their initial license exam in a different state other than the one they graduated from.What state is the hardest to get a nursing license? ›
ALASKA. The Last Frontier is calling! While that may be the case, a nurse interested in working in Alaska must first go through the (on average) 8-week nursing license process. Alaska, like all the aforementioned states, requires fingerprints and a background check from nurses applying for a license.What state pays more for RN? ›
In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).How many times can I take NCLEX? ›
If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.
Does NCLEX-RN Get Harder with Every Retake After Failing? Some candidates mistakenly believe that the NCLEX is harder each time. Questions become more challenging with each correct answer you provide on the NCLEX. However, subsequent tests are not easier or more difficult than previous exams.How many times can one fail the NCLEX? ›
If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.How many times can you fail the NCLEX in a year? ›
What Happens If You Do Not Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam the First Time? Though the vast majority of candidates pass the exam the first time, those who fail are permitted to retake it after 45 days from their original test date. Candidates may retest as many as 8 times in a year.Which state has the lowest NCLEX pass rate? ›
2 and Dec. 9, 2022. Last year, 63.88 percent of registered nursing students passed the NCLEX, down from 64.79 percent in 2021 and 68.92 percent in 2020. Florida has had the lowest NCLEX pass rates in the country since 2017, according to The Tampa Bay Times.How many people pass the NCLEX the first time? ›
Find out the reasons and what you can do as a student or nurse educator. For first-time test-takers, the pass rate fell to 79.9% and for all test-takers to 63.4%.What is the hardest part of the NCLEX? ›
- Second-Guessing Your Abilities. ...
- Changing Answers Repeatedly. ...
- Reading Questions Too Fast. ...
- Cramming Before the Test. ...
- Not Using the Right Study Tools. ...
- Not Getting Enough Rest Before the Test. ...
- Reading Too Much into a Question.
- Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
- Pharmacology. ...
- Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
- Evidence-Based Practice.
- Step 1: Review NCLEX Test Plans. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN ) website provides outlines of the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN tests. ...
- Step 2: Take An NCLEX Practice Exam. ...
- Step 3: Take an NCLEX Study Course. ...
- Step 4: Refer to HESI Exit Exam Results and Take Remediation.
How long should I study each day? The amount of time that you choose to schedule in your NCLEX study plan can be highly subjective from person to person — but on average, it is recommended that a nursing student aims to study at least 3-5 hours a day (excluding days off) while they prepare for the exam.How long should you study for NCLEX? ›
It is commonly recommended that you spend at least six weeks studying for the NCLEX. However, you can take a couple of practice quizzes and tests to evaluate how prepared you are. If you feel prepared and do well on the practice tests, then two weeks may be enough time to study and refresh your knowledge.
3. Can You Get the Pearson Vue Good Pop Up and Still Fail? Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if you have passed the NCLEX is to wait for your official results. Although it does not always happen, the Pearson Vue trick can give you a good pop-up even if you failed the NCLEX exam.What type of nurse are most demanding in USA? ›
BSN-prepared nurses are the most sought-after RNs in the job market and can advance to leadership and management roles more quickly than the ASN nurse.What is the easiest nursing field to get into? ›
One of the easiest nursing jobs to get into is in the field of occupational health. Occupational health nurses work in large industries, HMOs, and factories to treat work-related injuries and onsite illnesses. This type of nurse is employed to keep the workers on the job.
Organizing: Know your rights
National Nurses United is the largest union of RNs in the United States, with a membership of almost 225,000 RNs in all 50 states.
The lowest-paying states are South Dakota ($60,540), Alabama ($61,920), Mississippi ($63,130), Iowa ($64,990), and Arkansas ($65,810).What type of RN makes the most? ›
The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist consistently ranks as the highest-paid nursing career. That is because Nurse Anesthetists are highly skilled Registered Nurses who work closely with medical staff during medical procedures that require anesthesia.What is the highest pay for a travel nurse? ›
Travel nurse salaries range widely across the country, with the lowest earners making $31,000 and the highest earners making $190,500 annually!What score is passing on NCLEX? ›
While it's possible to pass the NCLEX after answering all 135, it's also possible to pass the test with a minimum of 70 questions or any number in between. Keep in mind NCLEX has a time limit of five hours. If you haven't answered enough questions correctly when the clock runs out, you will fail the test.What happens if you don't pass NCLEX after 3 years? ›
If you have not passed the NCLEX by the three-year anniversary of your graduation, you will have to attend a nursing education program before you may take the exam again.How many questions can the NCLEX go up too? ›
The NCLEX-RN can have a maximum of 145 questions, while the NCLEX-PN contains up to 205 questions. Not all individuals taking the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN exams will answer all possible questions, but there is a minimum number of test questions that all examinees must answer during their testing period.
Can I Fail the NCLEX at 75 Questions? To pass the NCLEX RN or PN, test takers must correctly answer at least 75 questions (the minimum amount). Unfortunately, that means you can also fail the exam within those 75 questions or items.What does it mean if I had all 145 questions on NCLEX? ›
Does 145 questions on NCLEX mean you failed? No, if you answer all 145 questions on the NCLEX, that does not mean you fail. In fact, if you answered 145 questions and each question was progressively more challenging, then that is a good sign that you passed.Is 90% chance of passing NCLEX good? ›
Depending on the time of year tested and the year, the NCLEX pass rates for first- time, US-educated test takers are usually between 80-90% +/1. So ATI says they predict that 59.9% of students will pass the NCLEX (with a 90-100% probability) when usually around 90% pass.What are considered hard questions on NCLEX? ›
Analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions would be considered higher-level NCLEX questions. Synthesis questions are based on creating or proposing solutions, such as a plan of care.What if I only got 75 questions on the NCLEX? ›
What does it mean if the NCLEX stops at 75? If you're taking the NCLEX and the test stops after 75 questions, it doesn't necessarily mean you've failed. In fact, many test-takers go on to pass the exam after only answering 75 questions.Why does the NCLEX shut off at 75 questions? ›
When the NCLEX-RN shuts off at 75 questions, it means you either did very well or very poorly—enough so that the CAT model is 95% confident in your success or failure after only one-third of the possible 265 exam questions. Further, in a 75-question test only 60 questions are counted toward your passing score.How do I pass NCLEX after failing 2 times? ›
- Step 1: Determine Why You Didn't Pass. ...
- Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with the Exam. ...
- Step 3: Schedule Study Time. ...
- Step 4: Take Test Preparation Courses. ...
- Step 5: Find a Study Partner or Study Group.
|STATE||OVERALL PASS RATE %|
NCLEX-RN candidates can fail the NCLEX and retest up to eight times each year in most states. Some states limit the number of times a candidate may retest before a refresher course is required. If you failed the NCLEX, it is best to contact your state Board of Nursing to verify guidelines for repeat testing.Which state to take NCLEX unlimited? ›
Pennsylvania: Unlimited attempts. Ohio: Unlimited attempts. New York: Unlimited attempts. Canada: 3 attempts maximum.
One of the NCSBN's findings when evaluating the NCLEX is that nurses are more often caring for critically ill clients than has traditionally been the case. This increased client acuity means that new NCLEX questions are more difficult, with an increased focus on caring for more critically ill clients.Which state has the hardest NCLEX exam? ›
None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.Can you pass NCLEX with 84 questions? ›
The test goes beyond the minimum of 75 questions.
Answering more than 75 questions can also be one of the good signs you passed the NCLEX-RN.
Typically, it takes around six weeks to receive official results after taking the NCLEX exam.Do the first 15 questions count on NCLEX? ›
The first fifteen questions are pretest items and are not used to score the exam and determine if a test-taker has passed the NCLEX-RN. Not all candidates will answer the maximum number of questions. However, everyone who takes the exam must complete a minimum of 75 questions.What are the most common labs on NCLEX? ›
Common NCLEX lab values include ABGs, BUN, total cholesterol, creatinine, glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C), hematocrit, hemoglobin, INR, platelets, potassium, PT, PTT & APTT, sodium, and WBC. The NCLEX exam will ask test takers to recognize normal and abnormal lab values.Is the NCLEX one of the hardest tests? ›
NCLEX Pass Rates
The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.
1 | There Are Two Types of NCLEX Examinations
The NCLEX comes in two different forms. The NCLEX-PN evaluates aspiring practical nurses also known as licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses. The NCLEX-RN tests registered nursing candidates.
No. NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) is a national test created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and administered by the Pearson VUE. The level of difficulty of the test does not change from state to state or from one test location to another.Is the NCLEX the same for everyone? ›
The NCLEX is computer adaptive and items are based on the candidate's ability. There are different item types used on the NCLEX and across all difficulty levels.
Unlike your math exams where everyone had to answer the same questions, the NCLEX is dynamic. It's a test that watches you, reacts to you, and tailors itself to you, which means it's very unlikely any two test takers will have the same NCLEX experience.Can I pass NCLEX with 145 questions? ›
Answering all 145 questions on the NCLEX-RN alone does not mean you failed the exam. However, with each correct answer you provide, the test should give you a question that becomes increasingly more difficult than the previous one.How many times can you fail the NCLEX? ›
If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.How many times can you take NCLEX? ›
If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.What is the NCLEX changing to in 2023? ›
The Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) launched in April 2023 and is an enhanced version of its predecessor, the NCLEX. As a nursing student preparing to take this exam, you should be aware of what's changed on the new NCLEX.What percentage of people who take the NCLEX pass? ›
According to the NCSBN, the national first time NCLEX-RN pass rate for US educated nurses in 2020 was 86.5% and the PN pass rate for the same period of time was 83%. The pass rate for repeat RN test-takers was only 42.9% and for PN 35.6%.Can you over study for NCLEX? ›
You can study too much, as much as 100 questions per day, or you can cram on the day before the test, staying up all hours. Neither is bound to be successful. Instead, create a structured study plan for the weeks up to the test date.Who determines if you pass the NCLEX? ›
The passing standards for the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN reflect the amount of nursing ability currently required to practice competently at the entry level. Because nursing practice changes over time, the NCSBN Board of Directors reevaluates the passing standards every three years when the test plans are reviewed.