Steps to Becoming an APRN in Kentucky

kentucky nursing

1Get your Graduate Degree in Kentucky
2Earn your National Certification in Kentucky
3Apply for your License in Kentucky
4Renewing your License in Kentucky

The Kentucky Board of Nursing (502-439-3200) licenses qualified registered nurses to work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) under four different recognized titles:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical nurse specialists (CNS)

You must hold current RN licensure in Kentucky or another compact state prior to applying for APRN licensure.

Kentucky Job Statistics

  • As of May 2020, NPs in Kentucky earn $102,460 a year on average.
  • NPs in Kentucky earn about 102% more than the state’s median household income.
  • RNs working in Kentucky make an average of $64,730 annually.
  • 2020 NCLEX-RN first-time pass rates for nursing school graduates in Kentucky: 88.8%
  • Approximately 42,940 RNs and 4,250 NPs are licensed in Kentucky.

If you already hold an RN license in a compact state, do not apply for Kentucky RN licensure unless you plan to declare Kentucky as your permanent residence.

Step 1. Get Your Graduate Degree

You must complete a post-basic nursing education program in order to be eligible to receive APRN licensure in Kentucky. The Kentucky Board of Nursing specifies that you must hold either a master’s degree or post-master’s certificate from a college or university that awards APRN credits.

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Standards of APRN programs of nursing education may be found here.

Qualified Graduate Programs

The program you choose must be accredited by the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA) or the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or another programmatic, specialized, or institutional accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE).

A list of pre-approved in-state programs resulting in master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing may be found here.

If you choose to attend an out-of-state post-basic program in nursing, contact that program directly for its approval/accreditation status within that state. Although the Kentucky Board of Nursing does not actively review and pre-approve out-of-state programs, the Board will accept those programs that are accredited by a national organization and/or approved by that state’s board of nursing.

Course Requirements

The Kentucky Board of Nursing has adopted the national APRN Consensus Model of education, certification, and licensure. Therefore, prospective APRNs who wish to work in the NP or CNS role must obtain education in six population foci:

  • Family/individual health across the lifespan
  • Adult health and gerontology
  • Neonatology
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s health and gender-related health
  • Psychiatric mental health

Additionally, as an NP or CNS license applicant, you must obtain national certification in at least one of these population foci.

If you are studying to become a CNM or CRNA, your population foci will automatically be incorporated into your program of study.

Your APRN program must include a clinical component with standards aligned with those of national certification organizations for the patient population with which you are working. If your APRN program is preparing you to work with two population foci or as a combined NP/CNS, it must include content and clinical components in both areas.

Other coursework that your APRN program must incorporate includes:

  • Advanced physiology/pathophysiology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Medical management of diseases across practice settings
  • Differential diagnosis of diseases across practice settings


Although you must receive education across a number of population foci, as an NP or CNS, you may also choose to specialize in one or more population foci.

In addition to this type of specialization, other specialized tracks are available within post basic nursing education programs. Some of these include nursing administration, nursing leadership, nursing education (academic nurse educator, or ANE), a master’s of science in nursing/master’s of business administration dual degree option, advanced practice rural health nursing, and public health.

Step 2. Earn Your National Certification

The Kentucky Board of Nursing requires all APRNs to become nationally certified within an approved population focus. This certification must be maintained to retain APRN licensure in the state.  You may choose to become certified in more than one population focus area.

Each national certification organization approved by the Board maintains its own requirements for certification, requiring you to meet specified educational standards and pass a national certification examination.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing licenses APRN titles in the following general practice categories:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP)
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

Certification Programs

These national certification agencies are approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing to offer APRN certification in general practice, as well as subspecialty and population focus:

You must attain national certification prior to proceeding with Kentucky’s APRN licensure process. Contact the appropriate national certification agency for more information.

Step 3. Apply for your License

You may apply for APRN licensure online. In addition to submitting the online application and paying the $150 initial application fee, you must submit the following documents to the Board:

  • Proof of national certification (a copy of your national certification card or certificate)
  • Official transcripts verifying your completion of an APRN post-basic program and receipt of a graduate degree (sent directly from your college or university to the Board)
  • State and federal background checks (see below)

Mail all documents to the Kentucky Board of Nursing, 312 Whittington Parkway, Suite 300, Attn: APRN Program Coordinator, Louisville, KY 40222.

You will be notified via email when your license has been approved, as Kentucky no longer issues paper license cards or certificates. Your email notification will include your license number and expiration date. You may check your application status at any time online.

Criminal History Background Check

You must pass two criminal background checks (state and federal) before an APRN license will be issued in Kentucky.


Use this page to request a fingerprint card for the federal background check.  After having your fingerprints taken at a local sheriff’s office or police station, mail the card and a check or money order for $16.50 made payable to the Kentucky State Police, 1266 Louisville Rd, Frankfort, KY 40601. The Kentucky state police will forward the information to the FBI for processing. It may take up to four weeks to complete the federal background check.


  • You can request a state background check online for a fee of $15.
  • You may request a report in person at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 100 Millcreek Park, Frankfort between the hours of 8am and 4:30pm Monday through Friday. This can usually be completed in an hour. The same $15 fee applies.
  • You may submit a request by mail, by submitting the Criminal Record Report Request Form to the Administrative Office of the Courts, Records Unit, 100 Millcreek Park, Frankfort, KY 40601, along with a $15 check or money order payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer.

Collaborative Practice Agreement/Prescriptive Authority

Once you have received your APRN license, you may wish to receive prescriptive authority (that is, the authority to prescribe medications). If so, you must have a written collaborative practice agreement with a Kentucky-licensed physician on file with the Board.

An example of a Collaborative Practice Agreement for Non-Scheduled Drugs (CAPA-NS) can be viewed here.

If you will be prescribing controlled substances/scheduled drugs, follow the template outlined in the Collaborative Practice Agreement for Controlled Substances (CAPA-CS). Additionally, if you have controlled substances prescriptive authority, you must notify the Board via this form. You must have been licensed as an APRN for at least one year before applying for prescriptive authority for controlled substances.

Practice Pending Licensure

If you meet all of the requirements for Kentucky APRN licensure (including education and national certification), you may apply for a Temporary Authorization to Practice authorizing you to practice as an APRN for a limited period of time, as determined by the Board and as will be indicated on your permit. This is often helpful if you wish to work as an APRN before your licensure application is approved. In this scenario, you must use the title “APRN Applicant”.

Step 4. Renewing Your License

Your APRN license must be renewed annually, between September 15 and October 31 of each year.

Continuing Education

Renewal of your APRN license requires that you complete continuing education, as mandated by your national certification organization and as prescribed by the Board.

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The Board requires that you complete 14 contact hours of continuing education annually to maintain licensure. Five of those contact hours must be in pharmacology, regardless of whether or not you have prescriptive authority.

Board-approved providers for pharmacology CE are listed here. Additionally, pharmacology CE providers approved by one of the national organizations listed here are accepted.

Maintaining national certification also satisfies the Board’s CE requirement. However, you must still complete five contact hours of pharmacology education each year. Contact the appropriate national certification agency for details on its CE requirements:

License Renewal Notice

The Kentucky Board of Nursing will send an email license renewal notice to you before the renewal period begins each year, or two weeks after it ends if you fail to renew. Renewal of your APRN license must be done online each year between September 15 and October 31. Fees must be paid online as well.

If the Kentucky Board of Nursing’s records reflect that your national certification has expired, you must fax a copy of your current national certification to the Board at 502-429-3336.

When your license has been renewed, you will receive a verification email from the Board. You may also validate renewal online.

Expired License Renewal Application

If you did not renew your APRN license during the annual renewal period, you must meet all requirements for renewal and file for reinstatement. There is no grace period for failing to renew on time. Instructions on reinstatement may be found here.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Associations in Kentucky

Think about becoming a member of a professional organization within Kentucky supporting advanced practice registered nurses:

Kentucky Nurse Practitioner Salary

Nurse practitioners pull in $102,460 a year, on average. So, if you’re considering this path, you can expect to make six figures. As you climb up the ladder, you’ll likely make at least $134,650 annually. That’s a comfortable living in this state.

Area Name
Annual mean wage
Bowling Green
Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
East Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox
Louisville/Jefferson County
South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

Registered Nurse Salary

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) will set you up nicely. On average, RNs in Kentucky make $64,730 per year. The top-earning RNs make their way toward the six-figure mark, pulling in $84,070 annually.

Area Name
Annual mean wage
Bowling Green
Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
East Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox
Louisville/Jefferson County
South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

Nursing Instructors and Teachers Salary

If you ever decide to shift toward education, becoming a nursing instructor will not set you back. As a matter of fact, nursing instructors in Kentucky make an average $70,320 per year.

Area Name
Annual median wage
Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
Louisville/Jefferson County
South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

Nurse Administrator Salary

(Includes Nurse Managers, Directors, and Chief Nursing Officers)

Do you like managing people? Nurse administrators in Kentucky make a good living: $94,600 a year, on average. As they acquire more experience, they break the six-figure mark. The top 10 percent report earning as much as $148,740 a year.

Area Name
Annual mean wage
Bowling Green
Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
East Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox
Louisville/Jefferson County
South Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

Nurse Anesthetists Salary

Nurse anesthetists are some of the most well-paid professionals in the state. In Kentucky, anesthetists make an average $163,700 per year. Those who have been in the profession longer make more than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reporting threshold: $208,000.

Area Name
Annual mean wage
Central Kentucky nonmetropolitan area
Louisville/Jefferson County
West Kentucky nonmetropolitan area

2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for 1)
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives; 2) Medical and Health Services Managers (Nurse Administrators); 3) Registered Nurses; and 4) Postsecondary Nursing Instructors and Teachers reflect state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. 2019 US Census Bureau figures for state median household income provided for comparison. Data Accessed December 2021.

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