Best Nursing Certifications for RNs and LPNs

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse specialized in long term care

A nursing certification is your stamp of approval that you are an expert in a certain specialty. It tells your employers and colleagues that you are very knowledgeable in your field and hold yourself to a high standard professionally. A certification signifies that you have not only the nursing experience and the expert knowledge, but also the commitment to continuing your education and a commitment to continuous learning in your field.

Nursing certifications are earned after passing a rigorous proctored exam that is comparable to your nursing licensure exam. You don’t need to get a nursing certification to work in nursing specialities, but it can be a wonderful step in your nursing career. It could open up doors to promotions, land you a nice hourly raise, or earn you a bonus.

What Is Needed for Nursing Certifications?

Before you’re eligible to obtain a nursing certification, you must first be a licensed or registered nurse, possessing an LPN or RN license. The exact eligibility criteria will differ depending on each certification.

Almost all certifications will require a few years of nursing experience or a certain amount of practice hours in that nursing speciality. Some certifications require both. On average, most certifications will require at least two years of nursing experience.

What Do Nursing Certifications Cost?

As you may have guessed, nursing certification fees vary depending on the certification and the certifying organization. In general, you can expect to pay around $300 for a certification.

Employers may pay for the exam cost upfront or reimburse you. You may also receive a one-time bonus for receiving the nursing certification. Find out how your unit rewards you by talking to your nursing manager.

How Can I Prepare?

Set yourself up for success by preparing for your nursing certification exam similarly to how you would prepare for the NCLEX-RN.

Try these tips:

  • Take a study prep course.
  • Buy a review course specific to the certification.
  • Prepare with practice exams.
  • Study with coworkers.

What Is Needed for Renewal?

Renewing your nursing certification proves you still know your stuff. Because of this, you may be required to submit proof of continued education hours or employment in the nursing speciality you’re certified in.

You’ll need to pay a fee to keep your certification active, similar to renewing a nursing license.

Don’t let your certification lapse, or you may have to redo the entire process over again, including taking another proctored exam.

Top 8 Nursing Certifications for RNs

There is no one best certification for nurses. It’s all dependent on your goals, desires, career plans, and experience level. And remember — you must have a minimum amount of practice hours to be eligible for each certification. Wondering where you might put these new skills to use? Check out all the RN jobs available on IntelyCare.

Before we get to our list, here’s a quick note on the General Nursing Practice Certification (RN-BC). Certification for this credential has been retired by the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC). However, nurses who have already obtained RN-BC certification can renew it every five years and continue to use this designation.

1. Nursing Professional Development Certification (NPD-BC)

Who it’s for: For entry-level nurses, the nursing professional development certification is a good option for RNs who focused on the NPD specialty. The nursing professional development certification exam provides a trusted assessment of your clinical training and skills once you receive your initial RN license.

What you need: BSN degree or higher, plus an active and current RN license in the U.S. or a professionally recognized equivalent if you’re living outside the U.S. You’ll also need the equivalent of 2 years of of full-time work as an RN. Additionally:

  • Minimum of 2,000 clinical practice hours in NPD within the past 3 years
  • Completed 30 hours of nursing professional development continuing education within the past 3 years

Cost: $295 for AACN members. $395 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every five years.

2. Informatics Nursing Certification (NI-BC)

Who it’s for: The NI-BC informatics nursing certification is perfect for nurses who love working with technology, electronic health records, and communications. This specialty requires strong technical skills, ability to adopt new innovations, project management skills, and desire to analyze and communicate data.

Earning NI-BC certification signifies you have a high level of competency in informatics. This makes you stand apart from your competitors when applying for that new job.

What you need: You must have an active and current RN license in the U.S. or a professionally recognized equivalent if you’re living outside the U.S. You’ll also need a bachelor’s degree and two years of full-time nursing experience. Within the last three years, you must have completed 30 continued education hours in informatics nursing.

Practice hour requirements must be one of the following:

  • Minimum of 2,000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years
  • Minimum of 1,000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years and 12 semester hours in informatics
  • Completed a graduate program with a 200 hour practicum in informatics nursing

Cost: $295 for ANA members; $395 for nonmembers; $340 for ANIA members.

Renewal: Every five years. Cost for renewal is:

  • $350 for nonmembers
  • $250 for ANA members
  • $295 for ANIA members

Additionally, you must have completed 75 continued education hours in informatics nursing within the past five years.

Learn more about how to become a nurse informaticist.

3. Certified Critical-Care Nurse (CCRN)

Who it’s for: The critical-care nursing certification is for nurses who enjoy working in intensive care units, cardiac care units, medical or surgical intensive care units, trauma units, or critical-care transport. This specialty requires attention to detail, critical thinking, ability to work well under pressure, and great communication skills.

Achieving board certification tells your employer and coworkers that you are dedicated to excellence in your care of critically ill patients and their families.

What you need: You will need an active, unencumbered RN license in the U.S. You also must have 1,750 practice hours within the past two years providing direct care to critically ill patients. Half of those hours must have been completed in the past year.

Cost: $250 for AACN members. $365 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every three years. Cost for renewal is $150 for AACN members and $230 for nonmembers. You have the option to renew with an exam or by continued education requirements. Clinical practice hours in direct care of critically ill patients is required within the three-year renewal period.

Learn more about critical care nursing and view the latest jobs for nurses in ICU, ER, OR, and med-surg units.

4. Inpatient Obstetric Nurse (RNC-OB)

Who it’s for: The Inpatient Obstetric nursing certification is for nurses who love working in labor and delivery, antepartum, and postpartum. This specialty requires excellent decision-making skills, empathy and compassion, and good time management. This certification proves that you know your stuff and are the expert when it comes to all things obstetrics.

What you need: A minimum of two years of specialty RN experience in the U.S. or Canada. This must include at least 2,000 practice hours. Both practice hours and years of RN experience must be met. You must have worked in the obstetric specialty within the past two years.

Cost: $325 total. The exam itself is $275 and there is a $50 application fee.

Renewal: Every three years. A competency exam is required to ensure you continue to possess the core knowledge in this specialty. Cost for renewal is $100. Clinical practice hours in direct care of obstetric patients is required within the three-year renewal period.

Learn more about how to become an OB-GYN nurse and view the latest OB-GYN nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

5. Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN)

Who it’s for: The progressive care nursing certification is for RNs who enjoy caring for adult patients that are acutely ill, regardless of the unit or location. These nurses work in step-down units, telemetry, emergency rooms, direct observation, and intermediate care units.

What you need: An active, unencumbered RN license in the U.S. and the state the nurse is practicing in. You have two clinical practice options:

  • Two year option: 1,750 practice hours as a RN caring for acutely ill adult patients in the last two years. Of that, 875 hours must have been obtained in the last year.
  • Five year option: 2,000 practice hours as a RN caring for acutely ill adult patients in the last five years. Of that, 144 hours must have been obtained in the last year.

Cost: $200 for AACN members and $305 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every three years. You may either take a renewal certification exam or complete a sufficient amount of continued education recognition points. Both options require an active, unrestricted RN license and practice hours.

Learn more about working in a progressive care unit (PCU) and view the latest PCU nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

6. Holistic Nurse Board Certified (HN-BC)

Who it’s for: The holistic nursing certification is for RNs who enjoy nurse coaching, promoting wellness, and implementing holistic nursing care. This certification distinguishes nurses as health and wellness experts in their profession.

What you need: An active, unrestricted RN license in the U.S. You must have 2,000 practice hours or one year of full-time holistic nursing practice in the last five years. You will also need 48 hours of continued education.

Cost: $100 qualification fee and $395 certification exam fee.

Renewal: Every five years.

Learn more about holistic nursing.

7. Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)

Who it’s for: The pediatric nursing certification is great for RNs who enjoy caring for children from infancy through adolescence. This exam tests knowledge of pediatric conditions, health promotion, pediatric patient care, acute and chronic illness management, and psychosocial family assessment.

What you need: An active, unrestricted RN license in the U.S. or its territories. You have two options for clinical hours:

  • At least 1,800 practice hours in clinical pediatric nursing care in the last 24 months.
  • At least five years of pediatric RN experience and 3,000 practice hours in pediatric nursing in the last five years. Of that, 1,000 hours must have been completed within the last 24 months.

Cost: $300.

Renewal: Every year. You must maintain an active, unencumbered RN license and complete 15 contact hours.

Learn more about how to become a pediatric nurse and view the latest pediatric nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

8. Clinical Research Nurse Certification (CRN-BC)

Who it’s for: The clinical research nurse certification is for RNs who are committed to speciality practice excellence and wish to further their career in clinical research. The certification showcases competence and expertise in clinical research involving human subjects, knowledge of the RNs professional role in clinical research, and ability to apply skills ethically.

What you need: An active, unencumbered RN license and two years of nursing experience. You must have at least 4,000 practice hours as a RN in clinical research in the three years preceding your application. You must also complete continued education hours, professional activity points, and have a professional exemplar.

Cost: $345 for IACRN members and $495 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every five years.

Learn more about how to become a research nurse.

Top 7 Nursing Certifications for LPNs

Nursing certifications for LPNs can help you reach that next step in your nursing career. Depending on where you work, earning certification in your specialty may provide you a raise or allow you to work in additional areas of nursing. When you’re finished reading, check out all the LPN jobs available now on IntelyCare.

1. IV Therapy

Who it’s for: Being certified in IV therapy is perfect for LPNs who enjoy mastering IV insertion and want to be the expert in that field. This certification requires knowledge of operating IV pumps, understanding of IV fluids, ability to calculate various flow rates, and knowledge of IV pharmacology.

What you need: An active, current LPN license in the state you are practicing in.

Cost: $100 to NAPNES and $60 for testing.

Renewal: Every three years.

Learn more about IV certification and view the latest infusion nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

2. Long-Term Care

Who it’s for: The LPN long-term care certification is great if you enjoy working in rehabilitation, skilled nursing facilities, or long-term care facilities. This certification tests for competency in the nursing skills of both geriatric and long-term patient care, anatomy and physiology, and therapeutic diets.

What you need: An active, current LPN license in the state you are practicing in.

Cost: $100 to NAPNES and $60 for testing.

Renewal: Every three years. Recertification costs $150.

Learn more about the benefits of long-term care jobs.

3. Pharmacology

Who it’s for: The pharmacology certification for LPNs tests your knowledge base of various medications, their implications, adverse reactions, and other medication considerations. Having this certification tells your employers and coworkers that your skills and knowledge of pharmacology is above the standard level required of LPNs.

What you need: An active, current LPN license in the state you are practicing in.

Cost: $100 to NAPNES and $60 for testing.

Renewal: Every three years.

4. Wound Care

Who it’s for: The wound care certification is wonderful for LPNs who care for patients with wounds and ostomies. The exam tests your knowledge of acute and chronic wounds, pressure injuries, ostomy care, and continence disorders.

What you need: An active, current LPN license in the state you are practicing in. You also have two pathways for eligibility: traditional or experiential. Both require additional nursing education and clinical practice hours.

Cost: $250.

Renewal: Every five years.

Learn more about how to become a wound care nurse and view the latest wound care nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

5. Urology

Who it’s for: The urology certification is perfect for LPNs caring for patients for urologic conditions. This exam tests competence in all areas of urology, the genitourinary (GU) system, urologic diagnostic tests, GU congenital anomalies, and medications used to treat urologic conditions.

What you need: A current, active LPN license in the U.S. or its territories. You must also have at least one year of LPN experience in urology.

Cost: $295 for SUNA members and $390 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every three years. Costs $150 for members and $245 for nonmembers. Must have at least 800 practice hours at time of renewal. You have the option to complete continued nursing education or retake a written exam.

Learn more about how to become a urology nurse.

6. Hospice and Palliative Care

Who it’s for: The hospice and palliative care certification is for LPNs working in the hospice or palliative care specialities. Hospice nurses care for patients at the end of their life and palliative care nurses focus on relieving symptoms and making patients comfortable. This exam tests knowledge of end-stage disease processes, pain and symptom management, and patient and family education and advocacy.

What you need: An active, unrestricted LPN license in the U.S. or its territories. You must have 500 practice hours in the last 12 months or 1,000 practice hours in the last 24 months.

Cost: $240 for HPNA members and $345 for nonmembers.

Renewal: Every four years. You must meet practice hour requirements as well as accrue sufficient points through professional activities.

Learn more about how to become a hospice nurse and how to become a palliative care nurse. Then view the latest hospice nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

7. Correctional Health

Who it’s for: The correctional health certification is for LPNs who desire to advance their career, expand their knowledge base, and showcase their expertise in correctional healthcare. This exam tests your competence of National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) standards.

What you need: An active, unencumbered LPN license in the U.S. and state you are practicing in. Eligibility requirements also state you should have a clean criminal record and display good character.

Cost: $220 (a $15 charge applies to mail and fax applications).

Renewal: Every year. At least 18 hours of continued education is required for renewal.

Learn more about how to become a correctional nurse.

Put Your Certification to Work

After earning a nursing certification, look for a job that compensates you for it. Learn how IntelyCare can keep you informed on the latest nursing jobs in a variety of areas.