To become a nurse, an individual needs to earn an associate degree or bachelor’s degree. Their nursing education generally does not end there. Even after nurses become licensed and employed, many will need to continue their nursing education. Not only is continuing education important for nurses, but it is also generally required for license renewal every two years .

License Renewal

Continuing education for nurses is so important because it is often necessary. Nursing licenses are only valid for two years. Most state nursing boards require nurses to complete a certain number of continuing education course hours within this two-year period. Unless the nurse’s continuing education courses have been completed, the license will not be renewed. Nurses who have not been practicing and wish to renew their licenses also are required to take continuing education courses.

Career Advancement

Nurses who wish to advance their careers and earn more money may choose to fulfill their continuing education requirements by earning advanced degrees. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can become registered nurses (RNs). RNs who have their associate degrees can earn bachelor’s degrees. Registered nurses also can earn master’s degrees, which will qualify them to be nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. A master’s degree in nursing also qualifies individuals to become nurse educators at most community colleges and technical schools.

Advanced Skills

Nurses benefit from continuing education courses because it helps advance both their knowledge and skills. The medical industry is constantly changing. New procedures, drugs and diseases are emerging as the years go by. Continuing education helps ensure that nurses are kept up to date with new knowledge, skills and information, so they can provide their patients with the best possible care. In addition, taking college courses every two years helps ensure that nurses do not lose their existing skills.


It is important to find out beforehand what the state nursing board’s requirements for continuing education courses are. Generally, courses must count towards a nursing degree or be specifically related to nursing. Prerequisites, even in related areas (such as anatomy and physiology), do not generally count towards continuing education unless they are required for the nursing degree. Also note that completing a certain number of training hours in a hospital or health care facility can count towards continuing education credits.


Distance learning continuing education courses are generally acceptable, as long as they are taken at an accredited college or university. Online classes can be ideal for nurses because it allows them the flexibility of completing courses on their own time frame, rather than fitting lecture hours into a busy schedule. With distance learning, clinical requirements will need to be fulfilled, upon approval, with a local hospital or health care facility. Most state nursing boards also will accept continuing education courses from other states.