How to become a nurse in Indiana

two nurses confer on patient vitals
two nurses confer on patient vitals

Indiana needs nurses. The state lists registered nurses among its top occupations, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an upward trend in occupational growth. A low cost of living makes Indiana a great place for new nurses just starting their career as well as families looking to put down roots. 

Students interested in a career in nursing have their pick of some great schools in Indiana. Most are located in the capital city of Indianapolis. Nursing students will find that colleges in Indiana cater to bachelor programs, which outweigh associate degree offerings in this state.

There’s no shortage of opportunity for registered nurses in Indiana. They’re needed at hospitals like Deaconess—a recipient of Healthgrades’ America’s 250 Best Hospitals Award—in primary care provider offices, at long-term care facilities, at schools and beyond.

Most nursing programs have a specific start date annually, usually in the spring or the fall. That means that now is the perfect time to start planning your journey to a rewarding career in nursing.

Steps to becoming a nurse in Indiana

Academic pathways to becoming a nurse in Indiana can vary. The steps you take depend on your major, college or university requirements for admission and the specialty you choose, among other factors. Generally speaking, however, there are seven steps that all students in Indiana go through to become a registered nurse.

Choose a nursing path.

male nurse stands against stark wall

No two nursing programs are exactly the same, so it’s important to carefully consider the program and speciality that’s right for you. Compare as many Indiana nursing programs as possible before you make your decision. Take into account factors like student to-faculty ratio, job placement after graduation and your ultimate career goals.

Earn your ADN or BSN degree.

teacher works with male nursing student before taking exam

Registered nurses in Indiana need either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Either degree is sufficient to qualify for a nursing license. An ADN typically takes two years to complete and a BSN typically requires four years. Nurses with a BSN have more opportunities to work in leadership roles and are typically paid a greater starting salary.

Take the NCLEX-RN.

nursing students listen to lecture inclassroom

After graduating from an accredited nursing program, students must pass a comprehensive exam called the NCLEX-RN. This exam is in order to obtain their nursing license. This is a requirement for every nurse in the U.S.—you can’t apply for a nursing license without proving that you passed this test of your entry-level nursing knowledge.

Get licensed in Indiana.

male nurse records patient vitals on chart

Your passing NCLEX score will then be sent to the Indiana State Board of Nursing. Then, once you’ve completed a federal and civilian criminal background check, you’re eligible to apply for a nursing license.

Find a nursing job.

male nurse listens to heart of patient while teacher looks on

Nurses are in demand at hospitals, schools, clinics and many other healthcare settings. Research opportunities in advance of graduation and reach out to recruiters on your professional networks to get a jump on the competition. If you built a rapport with a local care provider during your clinical studies, reach out and see if there are any opportunities. Nursing may be an in-demand career, but hiring is still competitive.

Renew your license.

female nurse reviews patient chart

Registered nurses in Indiana must renew their license in order to continue practicing. The RN licensure period is from November 1 of odd numbered years through October 31 of the following odd numbered year. An example would be November 1, 2021 to October 31, 2023.
In some states, registered nurses must take continuing education credits in order to renew their license. Indiana is not one of these states. 

Maximize your potential.

smiling nurse manager works with two nurses to review hospital protocol

Registered nurses in Indiana can increase their earning potential and open doors professionally by continuing their education. Consider additional certifications in healthcare specialties or advanced degrees in order to boost your salary and gain new experience.

Acquiring an RN license in Indiana

In order to apply for a nursing license in Indiana, nursing graduates must first apply for an Authorization to Test from the Indiana State Board of Nursing. Says Jennifer Hartman, a Nurse Practitioner at St. Vincent Breast Care Services in Indianapolis, “Application to take the NCLEX can be completed before graduation, but the Authorization to Test is not approved by the Board of Nursing until they receive notification from the School of Nursing that degree requirements have been fulfilled.” This authorization is then submitted to the NCLEX in order to qualify you to take that exam. Your NCLEX-RN exam results will be sent to the ISBN after they’ve been processed. From here, the ISBN is responsible for issuing and renewing licenses to recent graduates and registered nurses in the state.

This NCLEX-to-exam process can take several months, so it’s best to start submitting application materials before you graduate. 

How long does it take to become a nurse in Indiana?

Obtaining a high school diploma or GED is the first step to becoming a registered nurse in Indiana. This is the minimum requirement students need to enroll in a college or university. 

Once enrolled at a college, students must also complete between 15 to 30 prerequisite classes before they are eligible to enroll in a nursing program. Completing these prerequisites can take anywhere from six months to a year. In some cases the application process can be competitive. Be sure to maintain a good GPA.

Make sure that the program you choose is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).  Accreditation ensures that your program has been vetted by professionals and your course content is up-to-date with the latest advancements in healthcare. Accreditation also ensures you can apply for financial aid and transfer credits if you decide to pursue an advanced degree later on.

Nursing programs include classroom instruction as well as clinical experience. Most are required to be taken in order and full-time. 

After graduation from a two- or four-year program, nurses will need to apply for an Authorization To Test from their nursing regulatory body (NRB)—in this case, the Indiana State Board of Nursing. Most registered nurses in Indiana experience a wait of anywhere from 30 to 60 days between graduation and taking their NCLEX-RN exam.

Nurses who don’t pass can retake the exam after 45 days. Once a nurse has passed their NCLEX, it should take six weeks to receive their official results. At this point, they’re ready to complete their application for licensing.

The timeline for becoming licensed can vary. The Indiana State Board of Nursing advises students to begin the process before graduation. If they don’t, there will be a period after graduation where they will be without a license and therefore unable to work. 

The state uses an online system called IdentiGO to schedule, process and deliver fingerprinting results for prospective nurses. Do not submit to a criminal background check until you receive an email notification that the ISBN has received your application for licensure.

Continuing education for nurses in Indiana

Advancing your education is a requirement for registered nurses in many states, but Indiana is an exception.

Registered nurses in Indiana can still complete Continued Education or Continuing Education Units, but they are not required to maintain or renew your license.

For nurses who are interested in advancement opportunities, there are many academic options available. 

Certificates and degrees offered through accredited programs can also be counted toward license renewal requirements.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can be a gateway to rewarding jobs in leadership and specialty care for nurses. Some nurses with an MSN go on to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), nurse educators, midwives or forensic nurses.

Note that, in Indiana, APRNs, midwives and controlled substance registration practitioners are required to complete continuing education credits in order to renew their license.

Is Indiana a compact state?

Indiana is a member of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC is an agreement between states. It allows registered nurses in Indiana—or any other state that participates—to practice in other NLC states without the need for obtaining state licensure. 

Thanks to Indiana’s status as an NLC member, transfering to or working temporarily in participating states doesn’t involve getting a separate license first. There may be separate or other requirements for foreign nurses however.

Being a member of a compact state also gives registered nurses the ability to perform telehealth visits, virtually treating patients from around the country via phone or video chat.

Job outlook for nurses in Indiana

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of nursing jobs to grow by 6% through 2032 in Indiana. That’s on track with the expected growth for registered nurses nationwide, which is also 5.6%.

Median salaries

The annual mean wage for registered nurses in Indiana is $73,290, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This number falls below the national median salary for a registered nurse ($81,220). Indiana’s lower cost of living does bridge the gap in pay to some degree.

Here are highest and lowest paying median salaries and the top paying cities in the state:

Registered Nurses
hero-widget-desktop-graph hero-widget-desktop-graph






Median Hourly Wage$35

Job growth5.6%

Total Employment67,350

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Kokomo, IN $76,760 $62,440 $98,400
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN $76,500 $55,080 $102,540
Michigan City-La Porte, IN $72,720 $56,760 $92,080
Evansville, IN-KY $68,280 $51,670 $89,840
South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI $67,230 $56,570 $82,060
Fort Wayne, IN $65,770 $58,990 $95,080
Bloomington, IN $65,750 $61,650 $95,870
Elkhart-Goshen, IN $65,630 $51,790 $82,970
Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN $65,550 $61,940 $95,660
Muncie, IN $65,490 $51,540 $79,930

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Find out how to become a nurse in your state

The process of becoming a nurse is different depending on the state in which you are seeking licensure. Each state has different requirements and standards that you should be aware of.

Here are some of the top nursing states in the U.S. and the steps to become a nurse in each:

Useful organizations and resources

The Indiana Center for Nursing unites statewide nursing education and practice leaders to affect change. They are dedicated to ensuring a diverse, highly qualified, healthy nursing workforce that advocates for equitable healthcare across the state.  

The Indiana State Board of Nursing is the credentialing body for nurses in Indiana. In addition to issuing or maintaining licensure for nurses, the ISBN makes sure nurses work in compliance with state laws.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing is a not-for-profit organization whose U.S. members include the nursing regulatory bodies in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. It is the developer and owner of all NCLEX exams.

NCLEX, which stands for the National Council Licensure Examination [for] Registered Nurses (RN), is a computer adaptive test nursing graduates are required to pass in order to be licensed as a Registered Nurse in the US and Canada. 

mariah beckman

Written and reported by:

Mariah Beckman

Contributing Writer

jennifer hartman

With professional insight from:

Jennifer Hartman

Nurse Practitioner, St. Vincent Breast Care Services