How Long Can a Graduate Nurse Work Without a License?

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Graduating nursing school is only half of the journey. The other half is passing the National Council Licensure Examination and becoming licensed. Since taking the test immediately may not be possible, the state board of nursing allows you to apply for a temporary license. While working with a temporary license, you are under the direct supervision of a registered nurse.

Complete the requirements and graduate from an approved two to four-year nursing program. During nursing school, you should become familiar with your state board of nursing and have the contact information.

Visit the board of nursing website for the state where you reside. For example, if you live in Alabama, only the Alabama Board of Nursing may issue a temporary license. Each state sets the time frame the license is active, but generally it is issued for six months.

Review the guidelines set forth on the state nursing website and complete the requirements to apply for a temporary license. For instance, the California Board of Nursing requires an application, a current fingerprint card and background check, a 2x2 photo and a copy of your official college transcripts.

Complete the paperwork required and make a copy to keep. Mail the original paperwork along with the licensing fee to the state board of nursing. The address is generally located on the application form.


Mail your documents and fee via certified mail with return service. This is proof you submitted the request in a timely manner. If you have any questions, ask your instructor or adviser how to contact the state board.


Take your NCLEX soon after you graduate since you may need more than one attempt to pass. Make sure any potential employers are aware that you have a temporary license.