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Regardless of the state you live in or the state you hope to practice in, nursing is a popular, rewarding career. In addition to providing steady employment opportunities and a relatively high salary, a career in nursing brings a special satisfaction that comes from making a real and lasting difference in the lives of patients.

The process of becoming a nurse, though, will vary from state to state—sometimes significantly. If you would like to become a nurse in Massachusetts, understanding the unique process involved will be an important piece of your success.

Below, we explore everything that you need to know about becoming a nurse in Massachusetts, including the career outlook and salary that you can expect, as well as the discrete steps involved in earning your license.

Nursing Career Outlook in Massachusetts

Demand for nurses in Massachusetts is strong, and expected to remain promising in the coming decades. A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) indicates that Massachusetts is expected to see a shortfall of roughly 3,600 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) by the year 2030 compared to actual need. Similar shortages are expected for registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and other titles.

This increased demand can be seen reflected in average salaries for nurses in the Boston area, as noted by PayScale:

This demand is driven by the fact that Massachusetts is home to a large number of highly-rated hospitals, each of which employs a vast number of nurses in a variety of specialties. Some of the these notable organizations include:

  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • UMass Memorial Medical Center
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Boston Children's Hospital
  • Western Massachusetts Hospital
  • Baystate Medical Center
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center
  • Tufts Medical Center
  • Newton-Wellesley Hospital

Steps to Becoming a Registered Nurse in Massachusetts

In order to practice as a nurse in the state of Massachusetts, you will need to earn a Massachusetts nursing license. This is because Massachusetts does not currently participate in the Nursing License Compact (NLC), which allows nurses from participating states to practice in any member state. That being said, legislation that would allow Massachusetts to join the compact is currently pending in the legislature.

In the meantime, if your goal is to become a nurse in the state of Massachusetts, you will need to follow the steps below to ultimately earn your license:

  • Complete an accredited nursing program
  • Pass the NCLEX Exam
  • Apply for licensure

1. Complete an accredited nursing program.

To become a registered nurse in Massachusetts, you will first need to complete an accredited nursing program. While you may be able to become an RN by completing an associate’s degree in nursing, many hospitals will now only accept applicants who have completed at least their bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

“Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the preferred level of education for entry into nursing in Massachusetts,” says Donna Glynn, PhD, RN, ANP, and Associate Dean of re-Licensure Nursing at Regis College. “And a bachelor’s degree is required to work as an RN in most Boston hospitals.”

If you are interested in becoming a nurse, there are many different degree options that you can pursue. At Regis College, for example, these include:

2. Pass the NCLEX Exam.

Upon graduation, registered nurse candidates will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is designed to test your knowledge in critical content areas for nursing.

Registration for the exam will require you to:

  • Submit an application for licensure in Massachusetts
  • Meet all of the Massachusetts state requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN
  • Register and pay a $200 exam fee to sit for the NCLEX-RN
  • Schedule your exam at the available time and testing site of your choosing

If you fail the NCLEX, you’re required to wait 45 days before you can try again.

3. Apply for a Massachusetts Nursing License.

After you have graduated from an accredited nursing program and passed the NCLEX, you must submit your application for licensure through the state of Massachusetts. This can be completed online. There is a $230 application fee.

Additionally, you will need to be sure that you renew your license every two years (by your birthday) in order to maintain your ability to practice. The renewal fee is $120.

It Doesn’t Stop With Licensure

While becoming an RN is the end goal for some students, many others will work in the field for a number of years before ultimately deciding that they would like to advance further in their career by pursuing an advanced degree, which often leads to a position with greater authority and responsibility.

Often, this means earning a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), both of which can offer you substantially increased career options and salary.