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You need to take the NCLEX to get your nursing licensure and work as a nurse.

The road to the NCLEX is long and difficult. But does that always have to begin with a nursing degree? Here’s the answer.

Can I Take the NCLEX Without a Nursing Degree?

You can take the NCLEX without passing a nursing program if you challenge the NCLEX. Other than that, you must either pass an LPN program, get an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN, ASN, AAS), a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), or pass one of the few remaining diploma programs in the country.

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What is Challenging the NCLEX?

Challenging the NCLEX is an option a handful of states have that allow you to take the NCLEX-PN exam part ways through your RN program.

As far as I know there’s a handful of states that have this option and it’s actually something I did when I was in nursing school.

I wrote more about it in the article “Can You Take the NCLEX-PN Exam During Your RN Program?

I also talk about it on my YouTube channel in the video below.

I talk about what challenging the NCLEX means and how a nursing student can take the NCLEX without completing a nursing program.

You Have to Get a nursing Degree to Take the NCLEX

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There’s no way around it. Unless you’re in a handful of states, you have to graduate from an accredited nursing program to sit for the NCLEX.

If you want to sit for the NCLEX-PN, you must pass an accredited LPN nursing school.

If you want to sit for the NCLEX-RN, you have to pass an accredited RN nursing school. Plain and simple.

What’s the Difference Between the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN?

The difference between the two NCLEX exams is that the NCLEX-PN is the LPN licensing exam, and the NCLEX-RN is the RN licensing exam.

There are also some differences in the material covered in both exams.

There is one exception to this, and I don’t really think it’s that much of an exception.

There are a handful of diploma nursing programs in the country. If you get into one of those diploma programs and complete the program, you can sit for the NCLEX.

I say it’s not much of an exception because you would still have to pass a nursing program.

The only difference is that you’re not really earning any college credits in a diploma program.

Therefore if you decide to go back and become an advanced practice registered nurse, you wouldn’t have any college credits to apply to that degree.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to can you take the NCLEX without a nursing degree.

You cannot take the NCLEX without attending a nursing program. You can either challenge the NCLEX or get an ADN, a BSN, or pass one of the few remaining diploma programs in the country.

You cannot take the NCLEX without going to nursing school. You either have to get an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), or pass a diploma program.

You cannot challenge the NCLEX exam without going to nursing school. If you’re in an RN program, some states may let you challenge the NCLEX-PN part ways through RN school to become an LPN.

You cannot become an RN without going to nursing school. The one exception will be going to a diploma program.

No, you cannot take the NCLEX without hospital experience. Even if you don’t have work experience, to graduate from an accredited nursing program, you would have to pass nursing school clinicals. Clinicals would give you some supervised hospital experience.

4 Comments

  1. How can I register to take the Nclex for lvn in California. I have completed the nursing school, but I didn’t pass the exit exam. The school want 10,000 up front to take my exit exam again. That’s just too much money and I’m paying for my student loan. I thought that was messed up. What step should I take to register for NCLEX for lvn nursing in California?

  2. Your answer to that question was incorrect. You can sit for your boards without a degree. There are several states in the country that will let you challenge Your LPN boards. Florida Massachusetts and Vermont are few. If you attended an accredited BSN program and you completed up to the third semester, that would be prior to going into your last semester of your senior year in a BSN program, you would be eligible to sit for your LPN boards and a handful of states in the country. I know because that’s how I achieved my LPN License. I have been a license practical nurse for 26 years.

    1. This is technically true. I already have an article about the topic of challenging the NCLEX. I didn’t think about this when I was writing this particular article since so few states even have this as an option, and the few that do can make it hard to find the information on their website. Thank you for bringing up this discrepancy. It has been noted in the article.

      1. Hello Thomas,

        I am an RN student that completed the whole LPN to RN bridge program, but did not graduate due to failing medsurge 3 by one point. Can I challenge the NCLEX? I did take the NCLEX class, along with Medsurge 3, and passed at 96% (instead of the 93% that was required). I hate to start all over again.

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