Best Nursing Certifications for RNs and LPNs

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN 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 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 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 an RN license.

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

Top 3 Nursing Certifications for LPNs

Nursing certifications for LPNs can help you reach that next step in your nursing career. Depending on where you work, a certification 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: The IV therapy certification 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.

2. Long-Term Care

Who it’s for: The long-term care certification for LPNs 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 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.

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.

Top 3 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.

1. Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC)

Who it’s for: The 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.

Having this 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.

2. 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.

Having this 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.

3. 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.

Ready to Get That Certification?

Take your first step toward a nursing certification by gaining the required hours of nursing experience with IntelyCare. Apply today and find a job that lets you work when you want.