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Can You Take the NCLEX Without Going to Nursing School?

Yes, it is possible to take the NCLEX without going to nursing school. However, this is not the conventional path and there are risks and drawbacks involved in this approach. It is important to understand the eligibility criteria, state-specific requirements, and alternatives to traditional nursing schools before making a decision.

Risks and drawbacks of avoiding nursing school

Taking the NCLEX without going to nursing school poses several risks and drawbacks:

  • Limited knowledge and skills: Nursing programs provide comprehensive education and practical training that prepares students for the challenges of nursing practice. Without this foundation, individuals may be ill-prepared to provide safe and effective care to patients.
  • Lower chances of passing the NCLEX: Nursing school equips students with the knowledge and test-taking strategies necessary to pass the exam. Without this preparation, individuals may have a lower chance of passing the NCLEX.
  • Limited job opportunities: Many healthcare organizations require nurses to have completed an approved nursing education program. By not attending nursing school, individuals may limit their job prospects and opportunities for career advancement.

The possibility of exceptions

While completing nursing school is the standard route, there may be exceptions in certain cases. Some states may allow you to gain nursing experience through other means, such as military training or foreign nursing programs, to apply for the NCLEX without completing a traditional nursing school program. However, these exceptions are rare and highly specific to each state.

Alternatives to Traditional Nursing Schools

Online nursing programs

Online nursing programs provide a flexible alternative to traditional nursing schools. These programs offer the necessary coursework and clinical experiences in a virtual format, allowing students to learn at their own pace and from the comfort of their own homes. However, it is important to ensure that the online program is accredited and recognized by the State Board of Nursing.

Self-study considerations

While self-study alone may not be sufficient to meet the eligibility requirements for the NCLEX, it can be a valuable supplement to nursing education. Self-study can include reading textbooks, reviewing study guides, practicing with online question banks, and participating in virtual simulations. Note that self-study may not provide the same depth of knowledge and practical experience as a formal nursing program.

Apprenticeships and training programs

In some cases, you may be able to gain nursing experience through apprenticeships or training programs. These programs provide hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced nurses. While these opportunities may not fulfill all the requirements for the NCLEX, they can be a valuable way to gain practical skills and knowledge in the nursing field.

Preparing for the NCLEX Without Nursing School

Self-study tips

If you are considering taking the NCLEX without attending nursing school, here are some self-study tips to help you prepare:

  1. Create a study schedule: Establish a study routine and allocate dedicated time each day to review nursing concepts and practice exam-style questions.
  2. Use reliable study materials: Utilize reputable textbooks, online resources, and study guides that cover the topics tested in the NCLEX.
  3. Practice with sample questions: Familiarize yourself with the format and content of the NCLEX by answering practice questions and reviewing rationales for both correct and incorrect answers.
  4. Seek guidance from experienced nurses: Connect with nurses who have successfully passed the NCLEX to gain insights and advice on study strategies and exam preparation.
  5. Utilize online resources: Take advantage of online forums, video tutorials, and virtual study groups to enhance your understanding of nursing concepts.

Online resources

There are several online resources available to support self-study for the NCLEX:

  • NCLEX review courses: Many companies offer online courses specifically designed to prepare individuals for the NCLEX. These courses provide comprehensive content review and practice questions to help candidates prepare for the exam.
  • Online question banks: Online question banks offer a wide range of practice questions that simulate the NCLEX format. These resources allow individuals to practice answering questions and assess their knowledge and readiness for the exam.
  • Nursing forums and communities: Online forums and communities provide a platform for aspiring nurses to connect with experienced nurses and share study tips, resources, and encouragement.

Peer study groups

Forming or joining a peer study group can be a helpful way to enhance your understanding of nursing concepts and prepare for the NCLEX. Study groups allow individuals to collaborate, discuss challenging topics, and share study materials and resources. Additionally, studying with peers can provide motivation, accountability, and the opportunity to learn from others’ perspectives and experiences.


In summary, taking the NCLEX without going to nursing school is possible but not without risks and drawbacks. Remember to thoroughly research and understand the requirements before pursuing any alternative paths to the NCLEX. With dedication and proper preparation, you can increase your chances of success.


Q: Are there any accelerated nursing programs that can help me meet the requirements for the NCLEX faster?

A: Yes, there are accelerated nursing programs available that offer a faster route to meeting the requirements for the NCLEX. These programs are designed for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and want to pursue a career in nursing. They condense the coursework and clinical experiences into a shorter timeframe, allowing students to graduate and become eligible for the NCLEX in a shorter period of time.

Q: Can I take the NCLEX if I have a criminal record?

A: Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from taking the NCLEX. However, each state has its own guidelines and regulations regarding the eligibility of individuals with criminal records. It is important to disclose any criminal history on your application and provide any necessary documentation or explanations. The State Board of Nursing will review your application and determine your eligibility on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Is there a time limit for completing the NCLEX after graduating from nursing school?

A: Generally, there is no time limit for completing the NCLEX after graduating from nursing school. However, it is important to check with your State Board of Nursing for any state-specific requirements or limitations. Some states may have restrictions on the validity of education and require candidates to complete the NCLEX within a certain timeframe after graduation.

Q: Can I work as a nurse without passing the NCLEX?

A: No, passing the NCLEX is a requirement to work as a registered nurse (RN) in the United States. Without a valid nursing license obtained through passing the NCLEX, you are not eligible to practice nursing or hold the title of a registered nurse.