Requirements for Nursing CEUs: Everything You Need to Know

Continuing education on its own may not be that complicated, but nursing CEUs are a different story. Since they’re mandated by the state board of nursing in most states, there are quite a few regulations to follow. On top of that, each state has different requirements, so nurses who practice in multiple states have to navigate that as well.

Ask any nurse what the purpose of completing CEUs is, and their answer will probably include a mention of keeping their nursing licenses current. That’s the main reason, but there are others as well, such as helping them stay in touch with advancements in the field of medicine. Between one thing and another, CEUs play an important part in a nurse’s practice. Before they can complete the required CEUs, however, they have to know what the requirements are. Sites like make this easier by offering state-specific CEU courses, which helps nurses avoid accidentally taking courses that aren’t approved by their state’s board of nursing. But what about all the other associated regulations? Let’s explore them below.

It’s important to only register for accredited CEUs

Even though CEUs have a lot to offer in terms of continuing education, at the end of the day you still have to make sure you’re ticking all the right boxes. You may have found the most amazing nursing-related CE course, but without the necessary accreditation, it won’t do anything for your CEU requirements. How do courses obtain accreditation? Through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or through the state board of nursing.

In some cases, you may have to check with the state board of nursing about the accreditation status of a course or activity. For example, in some states you can earn CEUs through getting published in a peer-reviewed journal. Since there’s technically no course, it might not be very straightforward to identify the course name or ID, or the provider’s name. If you confirmed with the state board of nursing, though, you’d be able to get a clear answer.

Give the deadline some distance

While it’s always a risky proposition to get down to the wire on an important deadline, this particular deadline really shouldn’t be messed with. The state board of nursing establishes a set license renewal period for nurses, during which time they have to complete the required CEUs. They also have to submit the proper documentation by the deadline in order to maintain a current nursing license.

What happens if this deadline gets missed? The license will be suspended, or even revoked in some cases. This could lead to a nurse missing out on bonuses, getting suspended from work, or being fired for non-compliance. If the state board of nursing won’t reinstate their nursing license after the missing documentation has been supplied, they may have to re-take the nursing licensing exam too.

In other words: this deadline should definitely be respected.

Keep accurate records

CEU documentation is a bit like keeping tax records for a business. The records will probably never see the light of day once they’ve been filed away, but you hold onto them all the same, just in case you need to prove that everything’s in order. Each state board of nursing determines the amount of time that nurses should maintain their records, and it’s generally up to the nurses how they do so. It could be in hard-copy form, or digitized and stored on a hard drive or in the cloud. However you decide to do it, here’s the information you need to keep:

  • Date of course completion
  • Number of CEUs awarded
  • Course provider
  • Course ID number and name

Find out the correct requirements for your state

Whether it’s record-keeping or intervals between license renewal periods, each state does things a little differently. Having a general knowledge of CEU requirements isn’t enough; you’ll have to look up exactly what your state of residence requires. These are the most important things to know:

  • How many contact hours you’ll have to complete – Some states ask for 10 contact hours per renewal period, while others ask for 50. Most states require between 20 and 30. As you can see, there’s a considerable amount of variation here; you can’t just wing it and trust that you’ll have enough by the time the deadline rolls around.
  • The license renewal period deadline – Again, this varies from state to state. Given how important this is, you should double-check that you’re following the deadline for the right state.
  • The length of the license renewal period – Quite a few states have their license renewal period listed at two or three years, but this isn’t something you can know for sure without looking it up.


With all the details that go into successfully completing CEUs, it’s worth bringing up a few frequently asked questions.

  • Which course formats don’t get CEU accreditation?

Most (but not all) nursing-related conferences and seminars, job orientation or training courses, advanced lifesaving or CPR courses, and non-nursing-related college courses.

  • Can extra contact hours be credited to the upcoming renewal period?

Unfortunately not. Extra contact hours can be inadvertently accumulated if your chosen courses gave you a few extra, or if you accidentally took courses with duplicate content – you can’t get credit for learning the same material twice.

  • Is there a difference between CEUs and contact hours?

There most certainly is. These two terms both describe credit that’s earned for CEU courses; there are 10 credit hours in one CEU.

  • Where are nursing CEUs available?

You can find nursing CEUs through college classes, workshops, select conferences or seminars, and various online courses.

  • What do CEUs cost?

That would depend on the course you’ve selected. It could be several thousand dollars, or it could be totally free.

The takeaway

Completing CEU requirements can be quite challenging, but understanding them shouldn’t be. There’s a fair amount of research involved at the beginning, but once you have the basics down, you’ll be able to focus on finding the best CEU courses and moving your nursing career forward.

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