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Become Nurse in Texas: Requirements & Licensing

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Over 200,000 registered nurses (RNs) work in Texas, as do tens of thousands of other nursing professionals. The Texas State Board of Nursing (BON) sets the rules and regulations for becoming a nurse, including educational, examination, and supervised experience requirements.

With over 29 million residents, Texas ranks as the second most populated state in the country. U.S. News & World Report ranks Texas as the 12th best state for fiscal responsibility and the 15th best in terms of the economy.

If you have wondered about how to become a nurse in Texas, you’ve come to the right place. This guide covers everything you need to know about Texas nursing programs, state licensure requirements, and career and salary information.

How to Become a Nurse in Texas

Aspiring nurses must complete a nursing program and obtain licensure. The required nursing program depends on the type of nurse, and students can enroll in anything from a months-long nursing assistant course to a full college degree.

Licensure requirements also vary for different types of nursing professionals. That said, many nurses must pass the NCLEX exam to qualify for licensure. The Texas BON offers information about this exam online, including pass rates by school. In fact, the pass rate for Texas has increased over time, rising to 91.9% in 2019 — nearly four percentage points above the national average of 88.07%.

  • Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    An associate degree in nursing (ADN) is the minimum level of education required to become an RN in Texas, but many nursing students choose to complete an online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program in Texas. After earning a bachelor’s degree from a nursing school in Texas, a student who plans to become a nurse anesthetist, family NP, or college-level nursing instructor must earn an advanced nursing degree, such as a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP).

  • Earn Your Nursing Degree

    To prepare students for licensure, online nursing programs in Texas require clinical practice at approved sites. Therefore, students can seldom find fully online nursing programs. Most associate and bachelor’s programs at nursing schools in Texas require applicants to pass an admissions exam and meet general requirements. MSN programs take 1-2 years to complete, and BSN programs take about four years. Nursing degree coursework includes science classes, general education courses, nursing classes, and clinicals.

  • Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Graduates of nursing schools in Texas must pass the NCLEX-RN to earn licensure. Online nursing programs prepare students to pass the exam, which takes six hours. Most successful test-takers also study daily for at least two months leading up to the exam. Nursing students in Texas must also pass the nursing jurisprudence examination (NJE).

    The Texas BON grants licensure to candidates who complete approved nursing programs, pass the NCLEX-RN and NJE, and complete criminal background checks. While nursing roles are plentiful, they are not guaranteed to any nurse.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Over 200,000 RNs work in Texas, which has the second-highest rate of employment for nurses in the country. Therefore, there’s no shortage of colleges and universities that offer nursing programs in the state, and several of those schools allow students to pursue their degrees online.

These online programs usually have the same entry requirements and course materials as on-campus programs. The main difference, of course, is that online degrees include web-based coursework. This might include recorded lectures, reading materials, and online discussion groups. Students also upload their assignments online and generally need to participate in supervised, clinical hours on location at a hospital, doctor’s office, clinic, or other medical center.

Online nursing schools in Texas can offer advantages to anyone who needs schedule flexibility. Students who work full time or care for children often prefer distance learning because they can study on their own time. They also do not need to travel to a college campus, which could prove tricky for learners living in rural areas or small towns.

Some online RN programs in Texas offer accelerated options, allowing students to graduate more quickly than the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree track. However, part-time online learners generally take at least an extra year to complete their degree.

Nursing Licensure in Texas

The Texas BON sets requirements for nursing licensure in the state. The board also receives nursing candidates’ applications and determines whether candidates qualify for licensure. Additionally, the BON provides a list of approved educational programs for nursing students.

Texas’ nursing licensure requirements do not differ significantly from other states’ standards. RNs, for instance, need an associate or bachelor’s degree, and NPs must attend graduate school. However, unlike many other states, CNAs in Texas do not need a high school diploma or GED certificate.

The following section provides greater insight into licensure requirements for entry-level and advanced practice nursing roles in Texas. Read on to learn how to earn and renew a nursing license in the state.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

Texas holds different requirements for various nursing licenses. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know in terms of education, clinical hours, exams, and license renewals.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    Individuals can become CNAs in Texas without a high school diploma or GED certificate. Instead, they need to complete a nurse aide training program approved by the state. These programs comprise 60 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of clinical training. The curriculum generally focuses on basic nursing practices and covers helping patients with dementia and other mental health issues.

    After completing the course, prospective CNAs must pass the Pearson Vue CNA examination. Candidates can take the test twice. If they fail a third time, they must re-enroll in the training program. CNAs receive their certificates about six weeks after passing the exam. CNAs who come to Texas from other states can also apply by reciprocity, so long as they already hold nurse aide certification in another state. After obtaining certification, CNAs must renew their credentials every two years.

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    LPNs or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in Texas need at least a high school diploma or GED certificate to earn licensure. In addition, each candidate must enroll in a state-approved LVN program at a community college or nurse education institute. Students need to earn at least a “C” grade in all of their courses.

    After that, LVN candidates need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). This exam tests concepts like providing a safe and effective environment for patients, promoting and maintaining health, and psychosocial and physiological integrity.

    LPNs who move to Texas from other states can apply for certification by endorsement. They must hold certification in their original states and should have work experience or have passed the NCLEX-PN within the past four years. All LPNs should renew their licenses every two years and complete 20 hours of continuing education credits to qualify for renewal.

  • Registered Nurse

    To become an RN in Texas, an aspiring nurse should earn either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. Keep in mind that although the state allows candidates with an associate degree to earn licensure, many hospitals require RNs to hold a bachelor’s degree.

    After that, RN candidates can earn licensure through examination or endorsement. Out-of-state nurses generally apply through endorsement, which requires them to already hold a license outside of Texas. However, nurses who start their careers in Texas must pass a state-issued jurisprudence exam and the NCLEX-RN exam. The jurisprudence exam evaluates candidates’ knowledge of Texas law pertaining to nursing. The NCLEX-RN exam focuses on nursing knowledge, such as preparing lab tests and providing basic patient care.

    After RNs renew their licenses for the first time, they need to renew it again every two years. RNs also need 20 hours of continuing education credits for renewal.

  • Nurse Practitioner

    Since NPs and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in Texas take on extra responsibilities, they need additional education and training. They must complete an MSN and 500 additional clinical hours. APRNs also choose a concentration in graduate school that informs their licensure concentration. In Texas, APRN license specializations include nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, NP (in areas like gerontology and women’s health), and clinical nurse specialist (in fields like pediatrics or mental health nursing).

    After APRNs meet their educational requirements, they must take a certification exam within their specialization area. The Texas nursing licensure board provides a list of accepted exams on its website.

    Once licensed, APRNs must renew their credentials every two years. The renewal process requires nurses to complete 20 continuing education hours and at least 400 hours of work within their specialization. Nurses working in pharmacotherapeutics need an additional five continuing education hours for renewal.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Texas a good state for nurses?

    Yes. With over 218,000 registered nurses working in the state, Texas boasts the second-highest employment of nurses in the country according to the BLS. The metropolitan areas of Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston also rank among the top 10 cities for highest employment of nurses in the United States.

  • How long does it take to get an RN license in Texas?

    That depends on a nurse’s chosen pathway. Since RNs can either earn their licensure with an associate or bachelor’s degree, it traditionally takes 2-4 years to get an RN license. However, part-time students may need more time to complete their education. Accelerated programs may help nurses obtain licensure more quickly, as well.

  • How should I choose what nursing field to go into?

    Think about the types of people you enjoy working with the most. For example, do you prefer to care for infants, children, or the elderly? Then you might choose to specialize in neonatal care, pediatrics, or geriatric care, respectively. You can also try out your clinical rotations at different hospital departments to see where you feel most comfortable.

  • Does an online nursing degree hold the same value as an on-campus degree?

    Yes. As long as your online nursing degree possesses accreditation, then you can obtain RN licensure like anyone else. Employers also do not mind whether job candidates hold a traditional or online degree. Instead, they care about whether applicants graduated with accredited degrees, good grades, impressive recommendations, and enough supervised clinical experience.

  • Is Texas a nurse compact state?

    Yes. Texas has been a nurse compact state since 2000. This means that other compact states recognize Texas nursing licensure, while Texas acknowledges nursing licensure from other compact states, as well. Therefore, RNs can move between compact states without worrying about the full process of applying for licensure again.

Texas Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

Generally speaking, Texas has some of the highest employment of nurses in the country. Considering that Texas ranks as the second most populous state in the U.S., this does not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, that means the state provides plenty of opportunity for Texans aiming to become nurses.

Over 80,000 CNAs, 70,000 LPNs, 218,000 RNs, and 13,000 NPs work in Texas. That means the state has the highest employment of LPNs in the country, according to the BLS. It also ranks as the second-best state for RN employment, the third-best state for NP employment, and the fourth-best state for CNA employment.

In terms of salary, Texas skews closer to the national average. BLS data shows that on a national level, CNAs earn a mean annual salary of $30,720. LPNs bring home a mean annual wage of $48,500, RNs make $77,460, and nurse practitioners make $111,840.

Nursing Resources for Texas

  • Texas Nurses Association

    Established in 1907, this group is the longest-running professional association for nurses in Texas. TNA provides professional development resources and a career center along with a peer assistance program.

  • Texas Nurse Practitioners

    Specifically for nurses licensed as NPs, this organization participates in education and advocacy. TNP hosts an annual spring conference and uploads job postings for members.

  • Texas Board of Nursing

    The Texas BON regulates nursing in the state. The board grants licenses and enforces safe nursing practices. Nurses can visit this website to check license requirements and read laws and regulations concerning nursing in the state.

  • Texas School Nurses Organization

    Nurses who work in schools can meet other professionals through this association. The group hosts conferences and events. It also offers free mental health training through the Texas Youth Suicide Prevention Project.

  • National Nurses United

    As the largest union in the U.S. for nurses, NNU runs several campaigns to promote nursing interests. The group also offers non-advocacy resources, such as an online forum where members can discuss nursing issues and ask each other for professional advice.

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