GUIDE
November 18, 2021
Student holding books wearing scrubs studying to become a nurse

Becoming a nursing professional (whether it’s an LPN, RN, or advanced nurse practitioner) requires a strong educational foundation. Most nurses earn a bachelor’s or advanced degree and pass the required certification exams before ever seeing their first patient. But once you’ve put on your scrubs and entered the working world, the learning doesn’t stop.

In fact, most states require nurses to complete some form of continuing education every two to three years as a condition of licensure. Even if your state board does not require any education for continuing competence for renewal, you may still be required by your employer or nursing association for job-specific certifications (i.e., nursing specialties, magnet hospitals, etc.). Specialty certifications such as medical-surgical, critical care, neonatal, etc. have specific requirements for continuing education. Make sure to check with your own hospital and any associations to which you may belong to find out if you have further requirements above and beyond that of your state nursing board.

This guide will walk you through what you need to know about Continuing Education (CE) and the specific requirements for your state and type of license.

Part One CE, CNE, and CEUs - What are they and why do I need them?

Let’s start with a quick explanation of what all those acronyms mean since you might be wondering if those terms can be used interchangeably.

CE stands for Continuing Education. Most licensed professions require some form of continuing education.

CNE is Continuing Nursing Education and refers to courses specifically for nursing professionals.

CEUS or Continuing Education Units are also known as Continuing Education Credits. They reflect the time spent participating in educational courses or approved activities. One CEU is equal to 10 hours of instruction. The hours of instruction are called ‘contact hours’. *

* Contact hours refer to the stated amount of time an individual is present during a course. One contact hour can equal 50-60 minutes of class time depending on the state.

Part Two What are the requirements for CEUs in my state?

Some states expect some portion of your continuing education to be on specific topics. The remaining hours can often be decided by you.

For instance, in New York, nurses must take an Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse course and an Infection Control course as part of their hours. In Michigan, one hour of Pain Management education must be completed.

The other thing to keep in mind is that CEUs must be earned within a specific renewal period as identified by your state. So if you need to earn a certain number of CEUs every two years, you can’t double up and apply extra hours to the following two years. They do not carry over.

Continuing education requirements to maintain certification status through a professional association are usually separate from the state board’s requirements. In order for licensed nurses to maintain their certification status, most certifying organizations require that a portion of their CE program requirements receive approval through a specific peer review process. Check with the organization that provides your certification for additional information.

Nursing CE Requirements by State

State RNs NPs LPNs
ALABAMA 24 contact hours every 2 years 24 contact hours including 6 in pharmacology. 24 contact hours every 2 years. 12 contact hours allowed through independent study.
ALASKA Every 2 years: 2 of the 3 are required for license renewal: 30 contact hours, OR 30 hours professional nursing activities, OR 320 hours nursing employment. At least 30 contact hours of continuing education, including 15 contact hours of education in advanced pharmacology and clinical management of drug therapy. If you hold a current DEA registration, 2 hours of education in pain
 management and opioid use and addiction in the two year renewal period
is required.
Every 2 years: two of the following three are required for license renewal: 30 contact hours, OR 30 hours professional nursing activities, OR 320 hours nursing employment.
ARIZONA No CE Required. APRNs who hold an active DEA license, MUST have completed a minimum of three hours of opioid-related, substance use disorder-related or addiction-related continuing education No CE Required.
ARKANSAS 15 contact hours every 2 years OR hold a current nationally recognized certification/recertification OR complete one college credit hour course in nursing with a grade of 2.0 or above 15 contact hours every 2 years OR hold a current nationally recognized certification/recertification OR complete one college credit hour course in nursing with a grade of 2.0 or above. 15 contact hours every 2 years OR hold a current nationally recognized certification/recertification OR complete one college credit hour course in nursing with a grade of 2.0 or above
CALIFORNIA 30 contact hours every two years. 30 contact hours every two years. 30 contact hours every two years.
COLORADO No CE Required. No CE Required. No CE Required.
CONNECTICUT No CE Required. 50 hours of continuing education related to your area of practice every two years. No CE Required.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 24 contact hours every 2 years. 24 contact hours every 2 years which includes 15 of the required 24 hours in pharmacology for the applicant’s current area of practice. 18 contact hours.
DELAWARE 30 contact hours every 2 years 30 contact hours every 2 years (for RN licensure) and 10 contact hours in pharmacology/pharmacotherapeutics to renew prescriptive authority 24 contact hours every 2 years
FLORIDA 24 contact hours of every 2 years: including 2 hours for medical errors, and 2 hours for FL Laws and Rules. 1 hour HIV/AIDS training (first renewal only.) 2 additional hours of domestic violence CE every third renewal for a total of 26 hours. 16 hours of continuing education every two years, including: 2 hours related to medical error prevention, 2 hours on the laws and rules that govern the practice of nursing in Florida, 2 hours related to human trafficking, 3 hours on the safe and effective prescription of controlled substances 24 hours of every 2 years: including 2 hours for medical errors, and 2 hours for FL Laws and Rules. 1 hour HIV/AIDS training (first renewal only.) 2 additional hours of domestic violence CE every third renewal for a total of 26 hours.
GEORGIA Every 2 years, 30 CEs or 4 other options See state board website. 30 hours every 2 years
HAWAII Every 2 years, 30 CEs or 9 other options 30 hours of continuing education, of which at least 8 hours in pharmacology and 22 hours in your practice specialty every 2 years. Every 2 years, 5 different options - See State Board website.
IDAHO 15 contact hours of continuing education No CE Required. 15 contact hours of continuing education
ILLINOIS 20 contact hours every two years. 50 contact hours every 2 years. 20 contact hours every two years.
INDIANA No CE Required. No CE Required. No CE Required.
IOWA 36 contact hours every 3 years and mandatory Dependent Adult Abuse Mandatory Reporter Training and DS 169 Child Abuse Mandatory Reporter Training. 36 contact hours every 3 years and maintain current certification in specialty. ARNPs who regularly examine, attend, counsel or treat dependent adults or children must also complete 2 contact hours of training related to child/dependent adult abuse. 36 contact hours every 3 years. LPNs who regularly examine, attend, counsel or treat dependent adults or children must complete 2 contact hours of training related to child/dependent adult abuse.
KANSAS 30 contact hours every 2 years 30 contact hours every 2 years 30 contact hours every 2 years
KENTUCKY 14 contact hours every year including Abusive Head Trauma: A New Name for Shaken Baby Syndrome 14 contact hours every year or other approved, equivalent activity. See requirements page for details 14 contact hours every year or other approved, equivalent activity.
LOUISIANA A minimum of 30 hours OR a minimum of 900 practice hours every two years Every year 30 hours at the advanced level and directly related to the full
scope of the advanced practice role and population focus for APRN whose
role and population focus does not provide for
certification/recertification and 6 hours in pharmacotherapeutics for APRN with prescriptive authority
Based on employment: 5 contact hours (full-time nursing practice), 10 contact hours (part-time nursing practice), or 15 contact hours (not employed or worked less than 160 hours).
MAINE CE not required. 50 hours of continuing education every two years - advanced practice registered nurses with prescriptive authority and must complete 3 contact hours of Category I continuing education on the prescribing of opioid medication No CE Required.
MARYLAND No CE required, but an approved refresher course is needed. No CE Required No CE Required.
MASSACHUSETTS 15 contact hours every 2 years. 15 contact hours every 2 years and maintain current certification through a national certifying organization 15 contact hours every 2 years.
MICHIGAN 25 contact hours every 2 years including 1 hour on pain and symptom management and 2 hours on human trafficking. 25 contact hours every 2 years including 1 hour on pain and symptom management. 25 contact hours every 2 years including 1 hour on pain and symptom management.
MINNESOTA 24 contact hours every 2 years 24 contact hours every 2 years (for RN licensure) and maintain licensure as an APRN through a national certifying body 12 contact hours every 2 years
MISSISSIPPI CE not required. No CE Required. No CE Required.
MISSOURI CE not required. No CE Required. No CE Required.
MONTANA 24 contact hours every 2 years. 24 hours of continuing education and 12 hours in the area of pharmacotherapeutics for APRN with prescriptive authority every two years No CE Required.
NEBRASKA 20 contact hours every 2 years, plus 500 practice hours every 5 years. 40 hours of continuing education in clinical specialty area for APRN-NP licensed more than two years including 10 must be in pharmacotherapeutics "20 contact hours within the last renewal period. Must be related
to the practice of nursing. At least 10 of the 20 hours must be formally
 peer reviewed and approved continuing education. Up to 4 hours may be
CPR or BLS courses"
NEVADA 30 hours every two years. including the state-required bioterrorism course. 45 contact hours every two years. including the state-required bioterrorism course. Additional 15 contact hours directly related to specialty and 15 contact hours in pharmacology. 2 hours related to the use and misuse of controlled substances for APRNs that have dispensing or prescribing privileges 30 contact hours every two years. including the state-required bioterrorism course.
NEW HAMPSHIRE 30 contact hours every 2 years and 400 practice hours every 4 years. 60 contact hours including 30 hours in specialty certification and 5 hours of Pharmacology. 30 contact hours every 2 years and 400 practice hours every 4 years.
NEW JERSEY 30 contact hours every 2 years. 30 contact hours every 2 years and 1 hour concerning prescription opioid drugs, including alternatives to opioids for managing and treating pain, and the risks and signs of opioid abuse, addiction, and diversion. 30 contact hours every 2 years.
NEW MEXICO 30 contact hours every 2 years 50 contact hours every two years plus 20 additional contact hours for CNP/CNS license. 30 contact hours every two years
NEW YORK 3 contact hours infection control every 4 years; 2 contact hours child abuse (one time requirement for initial license) and sexual harassment. 3 contact hours infection control every 4 years; 2 contact hours child abuse (one time requirement for initial license). Maintain specialty certification. 3 contact hours infection control every 4 years.
NORTH CAROLINA One of the following every two years: 15 contact hours and 640 hours of active practice, OR National certification or re-certification, OR 30 contact hours, OR completion of refresher course. Completion 2 semester hours of post-licensure academic education, OR 15 contact hours plus various other nursing-related activities. 50 hours of continuing education every year including 1 hour on controlled substance prescribing practices, signs of theabuse or misuse of controlled substances, and controlled substance prescribing for chronic pain management for nurse practitioners who
prescribe controlled substances.
One of the following every two years: 15 contact hours and 640 hours of active practice, OR National certification or re-certification, OR 30 contact hours, OR completion of refresher course. Completion 2 semester hours of post-licensure academic education, OR 15 contact hours plus various other nursing-related activities.See website for further details
NORTH DAKOTA 12 contact hours every two years. 15 hours of continuing education in pharmacotherapy related to scope of practice for APRN with prescriptive authority every two years. 12 contact hours every two years.
OHIO Greater than 24 contact hours every 2 years. 24 hours of continuing education every two years for each APRN license held including at least 12 of the 24 contact hours must include CE in advanced pharmacology  for APRN-CNP, APRN-CNS, or APRN-CNM 24 contact hours every 2 years.
OKLAHOMA 24 contact hours every 2 years. Every two years 15 hours of continuing education in pharmacotherapeutics, clinical application, and use of pharmacological agents in the prevention of illness, and in the restoration and maintenance of health, for those with prescriptive authority including  2 hours of education in pain management or 2 hours of education in opioid use or addiction, unless the APRN does not currently hold a valid federal DEA registration number 24 contact hours every 2 years.
OREGON One-time requirement for 7 hours of pain management-related CE. One hour must be a course to be provided by the Oregon Pain Management Commission . Once this requirement is fulfilled, there is no additional CE requirements for renewal. One-time requirement for 7 hours of pain management-related CE. One hour must be a course to be provided by the Oregon Pain Management Commission . Once this requirement is fulfilled, there is no additional CE requirements for renewal. One-time requirement for 7 hours of pain management-related CE. One hour must be a course to be provided by the Oregon Pain Management Commission . Once this requirement is fulfilled, there is no additional CE requirements for renewal.
PENNSYLVANIA 30 contact hours every two years including mandatory child abuse course. 30 contact hours every two years. 4 hours of Board-approved education consisting of 2 hours in pain
management or the identification of addiction and 2 hours in the
practices of prescribing or dispensing of opioids for CRNP with
prescriptive authority
No CE Required.
RHODE ISLAND 10 contact hours every 2 years including 2 hours of substance abuse CE 10 contact hours every 2 years including 2 hours of substance abuse CE. 1 hour on Alzheimers disease one time per career. 10 contact hours every 2 years including 2 hours of substance abuse CE
SOUTH CAROLINA 30 contact hours every 2 years. May also show proof of competence by maintenance of certification by a national certifying body, completion of an academic program, or employer certification 30 contact hours every 2 years. May also show proof of competence by maintenance of certification by a national certifying body, completion of an academic program, or employer certification 30 contact hours every 2 years. May also show proof of competence by maintenance of certification by a national certifying body, completion of an academic program, or employer certification
SOUTH DAKOTA CE not required. No CE Required. No CE Required.
TENNESSEE 5 contact hours every year for practicing nurses. Must be accompanied by two documents verifying competence or 10 contact hours annually for those not practicing and one additional document verifying competence Every two years - 5 hours of continuing education (10 hours if not currently practicing) and 2 hours of continuing education to address controlled substance
prescribing practices, including the Tennessee Chronic Pain Guidelines,
for APRN with Certificate of Fitness
5 contact hours for practicing nurses accompanied by two documents verifying competence or 10 contact hours for those not practicing and one additional document verifying competence
TEXAS 20 contact hours every 2 years. Mandatory CE requirements including
Forensic Evidence Collection for Nurses and Nursing Jurisprudence and Ethics for Texas Nurses
20 contact hours every 2 years. Several mandatory CE requirements such as Nursing Jurisprudence, Ethics, Geriatric Care, and Forensic Collection. 2 contact hours related to geriatric care for those who work with older adults and 5 hours in pharmacotherapeutics for APRN with prescriptive authority. 20 contact hours every 2 years. Several mandatory CE requirements such as Nursing Jurisprudence, Ethics, Geriatric Care, and Forensic Collection
UTAH One of the following every 2 years: 30 contact hours, OR 200 practice hours and 15 contact hours, OR 400 practice hours. One of the following every 2 years: 30 contact hours, OR 200 practice hours and 15 contact hours, OR 400 practice hours. APRN’s must also complete 8 hours of medication-related CE. One of the following every 2 years: 30 contact hours, OR 200 practice hours and 15 contact hours, OR 400 practice hours.
VERMONT No CE Required. See state board website. No CE Required - Active Practice requirement.
VIRGINIA 15 contact hours every 2 years. Every two years - 40 hours of continuing education for nurse practitioner if licensed prior to May 8, 2002 and 8 eight hours of continuing education in pharmacology or pharmacotherapeutics for nurse practitioner with prescriptive authority 15 contact hours every 2 years.
WASHINGTON 45 hours of CE Every 3 years. Every two years - 30 hours of continuing education in specialty area and 15 hours of conitnuing education in pharmacology for ARNP with prescriptive authority 45 hours of CE Every 3 years.
WEST VIRGINIA 12 contact hours every year. Must include best prescribing and drug diversion training if licensee prescribes, administers, or dispenses controlled substances. Also mandatory training for mental health conditions common to veterans and their families 24 hours every two years with 12 hours in pharmacotherapeutics and 12 hours in the clinical management of patients. 12 of these hours may count toward CE requirement for RN license. 24 contact hours every two years.
WISCONSIN CE not required. Every two years - 16 hours of continuing education in clinical pharmacology or therapeutics relevant to the advanced practice nurse prescriber's area of practice, including at least 2 contact hours in responsible prescribing of controlled substances No CE Required.
WYOMING One of the following: 500 practice hours in the last 2 years, 1600 practice hours in the last 5 years, 20 contact hours in the last 2 years, Completion of a refresher course in the last 5 years, Certification in a specialty area of nursing practice by a national accrediting agency in the last 5 years, Pass the NCLEX in the last 5 years. One of the following: Current National Certification OR 60 contact hours every 2 years AND 400 hours of employment as an APRN in specialty of advanced practice Prescriptive Authority: 5 contact hours every 2 years in pharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics, or drug therapy. One of the following: 500 practice hours in the last 2 years 1600 practice hours in the last 5 years 20 contact hours in the last 2 years Completion of a refresher course in the last 5 years Certification in a specialty area of nursing practice by a national accrediting agency in the last 5 years, Pass the NCLEX in the last 5 years

Find Nursing Programs

Part Three What is A NCC Approved CE?

As mentioned briefly in Part One, CEUs refer to a unit of credit equal to 10 hours of participation in an educational course or approved activity. The key here is choosing approved or accredited programs. In order for a CEU to count toward your required hours, it must be administered by an approved CE provider. Usually, if it’s nursing CE coursework from a college or university or a nursing school, you should have no issues with having such credits approved. However, the study hours must be related to nursing in some way, so taking a liberal arts course, for example, wouldn’t count.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the organization that sets the standards for nursing board certification and is recognized by all state boards of nursing. Taking ANCC-approved courses not only boosts your earning potential, it also ensures that you’re able to stay on top of the latest advances in the profession and provide your patients with the best care.

Directory of State Nursing Boards

State State Board Homepage Phone
ALABAMA Alabama Board of Nursing (334) 242-4060
ALASKA Alaska Board of Nursing (907) 269-8160
ARIZONA Arizona Board of Nursing (602) 771-7800
ARKANSAS Arkansas State Boarding of Nursing (501) 686-2700
CALIFORNIA California Board of Registered Nursing (916) 322-3350
COLORADO Colorado Board of Nursing (303) 894-2430
CONNECTICUT Connecticut Nursing Licensure (860) 509-7603
DC DC Board of Nursing (202) 724-4900
DELAWARE Delaware Board of Nursing (302) 744-4516
FLORIDA Florida Board of Nursing (850) 488-0595
GEORGIA Georgia Board of Nursing (478) 207-1300
HAWAII Hawaii Board of Nursing (808) 586-2695
IDAHO Idaho Board of Nursing (208) 334-3110
ILLINOIS Illinois Center for Nursing (888) 687-7307
INDIANA Indiana State Board of Nursing (317) 234-2043
IOWA Iowa Board of Nursing (515) 281-3255
KANSAS Kansas Board of Nursing (785) 296-4929
KENTUCKY Kentucky Board of Nursing (502) 429-3300
LOUISIANA Louisiana State Board of Nursing (504) 838-5332
MAINE Maine State Board of Nursing (207) 287-1133
MARYLAND Maryland Board of Nursing (410) 585-1900
MASSACHUSETTS Massachusetts Board of Nursing (617) 727-3074
MICHIGAN Michigan Board of Nursing (517) 335-0918
MINNESOTA Minnesota Board of Nursing (612) 617-2270
MISSISSIPPI Mississippi Board of Nursing (601) 987-4188
MISSOURI Missouri Board of Nursing (406) 841-2340
MONTANA Montana Board of Nursing (406) 444-2071
NEBRASKA Nebraska Board of Nursing (402) 471-4376
NEVADA Nevada State Board of Nursing (702) 486-5800
NEW HAMPSHIRE New Hampshire Board of Nursing (603) 271-2323
NEW JERSEY New Jersey Board of Nursing (973) 504-6430
NEW MEXICO New Mexico Board of Nursing (505) 841-8340
NEW YORK New York Board of Nursing (518) 474-3817 Ext 390
NORTH CAROLINA North Carolina Board of Nursing (919) 782-3211
NORTH DAKOTA North Dakota Board of Nursing (701) 328-9778
OHIO Ohio Board of Nursing (614) 466-3947
OKLAHOMA Oklahoma Board of Nursing (405) 962-1800
OREGON Oregon State Board of Nursing (971) 673-0685
PENNSYLVANIA Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing (717) 783-7142
RHODE ISLAND Rhode Island Nursing Licensure (401) 222-5960
SOUTH CAROLINA South Carolina Board of Nursing (803) 896-4550
SOUTH DAKOTA South Dakota Board of Nursing (605) 362-2760
TENNESSEE Tennessee Board of Nursing (615) 532-5166
TEXAS Texas Board of Nursing (512) 305-7400
UTAH Utah Nursing Licensure (801) 530-6628
VERMONT Vermont Nursing Licensure (802) 828-2396
VIRGINIA Virginia Board of Nursing (804) 662-9909
WASHINGTON Washington Board of Nursing (360) 236-4700
WEST VIRGINIA West Virginia Board of Nursing (304) 558-3596
WISCONSIN Wisconsin Nursing Licensure (608) 266-2112
WYOMING Wyoming State Board of Nursing (307) 777-7601

Part Four What is the easiest way to fulfill my CE requirements?

With a busy nursing work schedule, fitting in CNE might seem like quite the challenge. However, you generally have a reasonable period of time to complete your requirements, so you can space out the hours in a manageable way.

If you’re employed by a large hospital and are part of a union, it’s quite possible that your employer will offer free continuing education courses at your facility. Check with your employer to see if any such opportunities are offered.

If you’re completing your CEUs independently, there are many options for completing CE hours online or at your own pace. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Commission on Nurse Certification lists nationally accredited CE providers on its website.

Fun Ways to Complete Your CEUs

Before you start dreading the idea of having to take classes for the rest of your career, you should know that CE classes can also be a lot of fun. Some smart nurses combine their CE hours with their vacations in order to get the most out of the time they spend away from the hospital. There are also a handful of CE providers that offer their CE seminars in the form of cruises or tropical getaways.

Seminars and other professional development events are also a great way to network or scope out travel nursing locations and opportunities.

Again, just be sure to double check with your state board before you sign up for courses from an unfamiliar provider. The few minutes it will take to confirm that a course is accepted is worth the time and money you save on one that doesn’t count towards fulfilling your CE requirement.

Sponsored: Receive $50 off Vohra Wound Care Certification and earn CNE Credits.Use promo code "NURSEORG50" for $50 off any educational package.

Part Five Paying for CE

Large hospitals and unions know that it is in their best interests to make sure their nurses are up-to-date on the latest therapies and technologies. Therefore, your employer may pay to send you to conferences and training sessions that can help fulfill your CEU requirements. Check with your employer to see if these benefits are offered.

Even if your hospital does not pay for your CEUs, they can usually be completed without having to spend a large sum of money. Some hours can be completed at no cost, or for nominal fees (under $50). Some providers offer the option to pay a flat fee to take as many courses as you’d like.

Remember though, you often get what you pay for and many of the best learning experiences can be expensive. It should be noted that no matter how much you spend, CEUs can usually be written off as a tax-deduction when you file your tax returns. See IRS Publication 970 for detailed information on claiming this deduction.

In the end, if you’re still having trouble getting funding for a continuing education course, consider applying for various continuing education or professional development scholarships.

Part Six How do I get credit for my work?

After completing CE hours, you want to be sure that your time and effort will be recorded properly. Usually, the provider will give you a certificate of attendance. If it’s done online, you will likely receive an electronic notification that you completed the course, but you can request a hard copy as well. In most cases, the acronym BRN should appear on the completion certificate, signifying that it is an approved “Board of Registered Nursing” continuing education provider.

Be sure to keep paperwork or digital copies of your CE completion records for a few years in case your credentials are ever audited.

Keeping your RN and specialty nursing licenses up to date is something that all nurses have to do in order to keep working in the field. However, don’t overlook the other benefits that CEUs can provide, namely staying on the cutting edge of new innovations in the industry so you can thrive professionally. In other words, choose your CE hours carefully so that you can get the most out of the experience, whether it’s networking with fellow RNs at a conference or learning a new skill that can be directly applied in your day-to-day job.

Part Seven Continuing Education Requirements for Nurses FAQs

  • How many continuing education credits do nurses need?

    • The exact number of continuing education credits (CEUs) is specific on the state of licensure. For those that hold a compact license, the number of hours is based on the state of primary residence. Some states require specific courses as part of the CEUs. For example, Michigan requires one hour of Pain Management education.
  • How do nurses get continuing education credits?

    • CEUs can be obtained through a variety of ways including from a nurse’s employer. CEUs are generally offered online for a small nominal fee. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Commission on Nurse Certification lists nationally accredited CE providers on their websites.
  • How do nurses check their CEU hours?

    • It is important for nurses to maintain a record of their CEU hours. Nurses will often have to report these hours to their place of employment. Individual state boards of nursing will often audit nursing licenses on a regular basis. During renewal, individuals are certifying that the required CEUs were completed. 
  • Why is it important for nurses to be lifelong learners?

    • Healthcare is an ever-changing field and there are always new policies and procedures based on evidence-based research. Through CEUs, nurses are able to stay up to date on relevant information to the profession. 

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