You passed your nursing exams and got your BSN degree.

You even secured a nursing position before your scheduled NCLEX. Except you took the NCLEX and didn’t pass.

What now?

Can You Work If You Fail the NCLEX?

In the United States, you cannot work as a nurse if you fail the NCLEX. This is because you cannot work as a nurse without a nursing license, and you cannot receive a nursing license without passing NCLEX. Therefore, you cannot work as a nurse without passing NCLEX. 

Find Your Next Nursing Job
Use the NurseMoneyTalk job board to look for and apply to great nursing jobs near you.

What should you do when you’ve been hired but failed The NCLEX?

If you’re in a situation where you were hired before taking the NCLEX and didn’t pass, you have some options.

For starters, you may be able to ask your employer to temporarily employ you in a non-nursing position while you wait for the mandatory 45-day period before retaking the test. 

Your employer may choose to place you in an admin position, work as a medical biller, or work as a nursing assistant (under the supervision of a registered nurse) for the hospital while you wait to get your nursing license.


Don’t assume your employer would not be willing to accommodate you and would just fire you.

This is why it’s very important to tell your hiring nurse manager as soon as possible if you didn’t pass the NCLEX or you think there will be some delay.

Being proactive will show you’re serious about the position, and your employer will be more willing to work with you.

Failing the NCLEX may seem like it’s the end of the world, but it really isn’t.

You’re not the first or the last nurse a company hired straight out of nursing school who failed the NCLEX.

It also doesn’t mean you will never pass NCLEX. Just wait for the mandatory waiting period and retake the test.

Something else worth mentioning is that you may find it easier to take the test the second time because you already have first-hand experience of what it’s like to take it.

Furthermore, you’ll also know what the venue is like and what questions to expect. Those experiences alone will help you pass the test the second time around. 

What to do when you fail NCLEX and don’t have a job yet?

This video covers some more steps of what you should do if you fail the NCLEX.

If you don’t have a job lined up yet, and failed the NCLEX, you also have plenty of choices.

You may choose to wait the mandatory waiting period and retake the test. Once you pass it, carry on your nursing job hunt. You can use the NurseMoneyTalk job board if you’re still looking.

You can also seek other positions where your nursing degree and knowledge are important but not necessarily having a nursing licensure.

Those positions, while not clinical nursing, may also interest you.

If you love administration and have great organizational skills, you may want to work as a healthcare administrator.

In this position, you will manage a health facility and improve the patient experience of the facility by managing the office operations. 

There is also an option of becoming a freelance health writer. You can use your in-depth knowledge of health topics and create health articles for publication.

Find Your Next Nursing Job
Use the NurseMoneyTalk job board to look for and apply to great nursing jobs near you.

Key Takeaway

The bottom line is that if you fail the NCLEX, you will not be able to work as a nurse. However, you still have options.

You can choose to work with patients in a clinical setting as a nursing assistant while you wait to retake the exam.

You can also choose to pursue a career away from clinical practice that still lets you use your nursing degree and knowledge. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

No, you’re not a nurse if you don’t pass the NCLEX. You need to pass the NCLEX to get your nursing license. You can not call yourself a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse if you do not have your nursing licensure.

While a few states may still issue temporary permits for candidates waiting to take the NCLEX, for the most part, you can NOT work as a nurse before you pass the NCLEX exam.

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