You might have a nursing degree that you earned overseas because you grew up in a foreign country or because you spent some time living and working overseas. Though you might think that working as a nurse in a foreign country qualifies you to work as a nurse in the United States, this isn’t necessarily true. College programs in different countries have different standards, regulations and requirements. You generally need to check with the Board of Nursing in your state and meet all the requirements for American nurses.

Foreign College Degrees

A foreign college degree is any type of college degree earned in a college or university outside of the United States. American colleges have accreditation from organizations like the Higher Learning Commission, but many foreign colleges lack accreditation. Some students earn degrees overseas because they want to save money on college. While the programs may be similar and feature some of the same classes, American programs often focus more on teaching nurses practical skills through clinical rotations and similar experiences. A foreign program may send you out to work after completing classroom work without providing you with any practical skills.

State Nursing Board

Before you can work as a nurse in America, you must check with the Board of Nursing or Department of Nursing in the state where you live. The Board will give you a list of all the requirements that you must meet. Nurses must have the right level of education. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is someone who works in a retirement home or nursing home, while a registered nurse (RN) can work in hospitals and other medical facilities. The state may require that you go through a background check as well and have a green card or other work authorization that allows you to work in the country.

Become Proficient in English

One thing that a nurse with a degree earned overseas must have is proficiency with the English language. Patients do not want to struggle with their nurses, and those who lack strong English speaking skills will have a difficult time taking medical histories and communicating with patients. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) lets you show employers that you have a strong understanding of the language and that you can communicate with both patients and other medical professionals you interact with on a daily basis. Many community colleges offer this test.

Other Methods

According to The Campaign for Nursing’s Future from Johnson & Johnson, there are other requirements that you must meet too, including passing the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) and undergoing a physical medical exam. The NCLEX is a long computer exam that tests your knowledge of medical ethics, prescription drugs, treatments and disease prevention. Unless you receive a passing score on the exam, you cannot get your license or work as a nurse in any state. The site also recommends that foreign nurses obtain a resuscitation certificate and that they work with an employer who specializes in finding jobs for workers educated overseas.

Whether you are an American citizen or a citizen of another country, you cannot work as a nurse in America with a foreign college degree unless you meet some basic requirements. Though a degree earned overseas may qualify you to work in foreign territories, American nurses must pass the NCLEX to get a nursing license.

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