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Top Alabama Nursing Schools and Programs

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Schools, Licensing Requirements, and Resources

Nurses rank among the fastest-growing occupations in Alabama. Employment opportunities continue to expand throughout the state for certified nurse assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Students interested in nursing careers can choose from campus-based and online programs in Alabama. The flexibility of an online nursing program appeals to students just beginning their studies, as well as professional employed nurses looking to boost their careers.

Before enrolling in any online nursing program in Alabama, use this guide to learn about career and salary prospects, along with educational and licensing requirements.

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Featured Online Programs

Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Alabama?

Alabama faces several pressing healthcare challenges. The medical needs of its aging population, prevalence of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and shortage of primary care providers drive the demand for skilled nurses, especially RNs and NPs with postsecondary training.

As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to grow, online nursing programs in Alabama have stepped up to offer quality education at a reasonable cost. The average annual in-state tuition at Alabama colleges and universities falls almost $5,000 below the national mean, ranking the state as the 11th most affordable for higher education in the country.

Although nursing salaries in Alabama lag behind other states, they rank higher than the average for all occupations in the state. Earning potential and the state’s low cost of living make Alabama an ideal choice for aspiring nurses.

How to Become a Nurse in Alabama

While nurses around the country study similar subjects in on-campus and online nursing programs, Alabama nurses must specifically meet state licensure standards. The cost and procedure for becoming licensed depend on the type of online nursing degree you receive. Here’s a look at how to become a nurse in Alabama.

  • 1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You

    First, define your career goals. What field of nursing do you find appealing? While you can become an RN with only an associate degree in nursing (ADN), earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree can ultimately lead to greater responsibilities and a higher salary. A competitive job market has led to the increasing popularity of online RN-to-BSN programs in Alabama. Most advanced practice nurses, such as nurse anesthetists or NPs, must complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.

  • 2. Earn Your Nursing Degree

    Alabama boasts many accelerated nursing programs that allow students to earn a degree in as little as a year using convenient online delivery. However, some students benefit from the structure of traditional, on-campus programs. Additionally, many online nursing schools in Alabama require students to complete clinicals or internships at a nearby hospital, and some online MSN programs in Alabama maintain extensive prerequisite course requirements.

  • 3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License

    Most nursing schools in Alabama do not offer licensing exams as part of an online nursing degree, but the knowledge you gain from still helps to prepare you for the licensing exam. Graduates of traditional and online nursing schools in Alabama must complete an RN or LPN certification exam, while RNs must also pass the NCLEX, which they can prepare for using online study materials. After paying a $200 fee, prospective RNs must complete the NCLEX in six hours or less. Licensure does not guarantee a nursing job.

Online Nursing Degree Programs in Alabama

As nurses take on more responsibilities and broaden their scope of practice, most states require an undergraduate or graduate degree as the minimum educational qualification for licensure.

Whether just beginning your postsecondary education or seeking professional advancement in your nursing career, online nursing schools in Alabama offer several degree options that lead to licensure and many diverse careers.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Alabama?

Each nursing program establishes distinct curriculum and clinical requirements, with coursework geared toward licensure preparation. Bachelor’s-level nursing programs require foundational classes in areas such as anatomy and biology, followed by coursework in core nursing skills and practice. Graduate programs focus on specialized advanced practice areas. Students enrolled in undergraduate online nursing programs in Alabama often encounter the following classes:

Community Health Nursing

This course emphasizes primary healthcare, public health and policy, and nursing practice for the care of families, communities, and populations across various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Students learn about budgeting, epidemiology, risk assessment, and the use of biostatistics.

Pathophysiology and Pharmacology

Enrollees acquire an understanding of the major drug classifications, through the use of prototypes with an emphasis on pathophysiology as applied to nursing. The course focuses on the therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs.

Nursing Care for Adults with Acute/Chronic Health Problems

Students learn to provide and evaluate nursing care for individuals experiencing acute or chronic health issues. The course addresses the impact of these health conditions on individuals and families in the context of physiological, psychological, sociocultural, and developmental factors.

How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?

Online nursing programs offered at regionally accredited institutions deliver the same quality education as on-campus programs. Graduates acquire the knowledge needed for licensure exams and the competencies required for their intended practice roles.

Although program content differs by degree level, students can expect to finish their online degrees in the same length of time as their campus-based counterparts. While some schools offer classes entirely online, many nursing programs require face-to-face attendance for hybrid courses, orientations, and exams. All programs require supervised clinical experiences that students must complete on-site.

Online nursing programs in Alabama commonly offer more affordable and convenient alternatives to traditional degrees, appealing to students with family or work responsibilities. An online BSN works well for RNs who already hold nursing diplomas or associate degrees, or for bachelor’s degree-holders in other fields who want to transition into nursing. Graduate programs attract nurses who need to maintain their employment while acquiring the advanced training required to advance in their profession.

Nursing Licensure in Alabama

The Alabama State Board of Nursing (ABN) establishes standards and regulations for nursing licenses, certification, and renewals. In 2020, Alabama joined the enhanced nurse licensure compact (eNLC), a reciprocal agreement that allows RNs licensed in a member state to practice in another member state without applying for a new license.

Alabama requires each CNA to pass a national competency exam, and LPNs and RNs must pass the appropriate NCLEX. However, unlike many states, Alabama operates under restricted practice. Each NP must practice under the direction of a physician, and the state does not recognize NPs as primary care providers.

Read on to learn more about state requirements and the steps needed to enter each nursing field.

State Requirements by Nursing Type

This table provides a summary of licensure requirements for each nursing category. Nursing students interested in working in Alabama should check with the ABN for current information and detailed application guidelines.

  • Certified Nurse Assistant

    CNAs who intend to practice in Alabama must fulfill training and testing requirements to have their names listed in the Alabama nurse aide registry. The state recommends that each CNA completes a high school diploma or GED certificate before enrolling in an approved nurse aide training program. These programs require 75 hours of coursework in areas such as basic nursing and personal care skills, long-term care, and safety issues. The curriculum must include 16 clinical hours and 16 laboratory hours.

    After completing the training program, prospective CNAs can register for the competency exam at the same time they apply for placement on the registry. Candidates must take the exam through a test provider designated by the Alabama Department of Public Health within 24 months of completing their training.

    Candidates who fail the exam three times may have to re-enroll in a training program before reapplying for certification. Once candidates pass the exam, the test vendor submits their names directly to the registry.

    Alabama Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Completion of 75 hours in coursework and supervised training in a nursing assistant program approved by the Alabama State Board of Health

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: Certified nursing assistant competency exam

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: None if employed a minimum of eight hours within the licensing period (12 hours per year if employed in a skilled nursing facility)

  • Licensed Practical Nurse

    Students seeking LPN licenses in Alabama can begin the process by enrolling in a practical nurse program that requires at least one year of coursework. The state board approves several programs at community colleges, vocational/technical schools, and some four-year institutions.

    The LPN application requires an official transcript from the nursing program and proof of citizenship or legal residence. All candidates must pass the NCLEX-PN, which is administered by Pearson VUE. After the board of nursing confirms eligibility, the candidate receives an authorization to test from the examination service. Candidates may schedule their own testing date as long as it falls within the window granted by the authorization to test.

    A graduate of a practical nursing program may apply for a temporary permit under the status of nursing graduate-PN program (NG-PNP). The permit grants permission to work for a maximum of 90 days before taking the NCLEX-PN exam. The permit becomes invalid if the candidate fails the exam.

    Alabama Licensure Requirements

    • Education: High school diploma and completion of a one-year practical nurse program from an accredited school

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-PN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: 24 contact hours within the licensing period

  • Registered Nurse

    Different educational paths lead to RN licensure in Alabama. Aspiring RNs may choose to complete a nursing diploma program, ADN, or BSN from an accredited program.

    To process the RN application, the state board requires a certificate of completion from the nursing program, proof of US citizenship or legal residency, and a fingerprint-based criminal background check. After submitting the initial application, license seekers receive an authorization to test, permitting them to take the NCLEX-RN exam through Pearson VUE.

    Once they pass the test, candidates receive full approval to practice in Alabama. Similar to the provision for LPN licenses, RN candidates who have finished their nursing training may apply for a temporary permit that remains valid until they complete the examination process. Licensing restrictions have eased since Alabama joined the eNLC. RNs licensed in compact states may practice in other member states without going through the licensing process.

    Alabama Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Nursing Diploma, ADN or BSN from an accredited school

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-RN

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years

    • Continuing Education: 24 contact hours within the licensing period

  • Nurse Practitioner

    In Alabama, the advance practice nurse (APN) designation covers NPs, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse specialists. Each license-seeker must hold an unencumbered RN license and at least an MSN from a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

    Due to their broad scope of practice, APNs must fulfill other licensure qualifications besides graduate training and a valid RN license. NP candidates must complete 4,000 clinical hours in specialization areas such as acute care, family practice, neonatal, and women’s healthcare. In addition to the NCLEX exam, each NP must pass a national certification examination in their specialization from a recognized credentialing agency.

    As a restricted practice state, Alabama requires each NP candidate to secure a collaborative agreement with a supervising physician before they can practice. Although not explicitly recognized as primary care providers, NPs may receive supplemental licensing to prescribe prescription drugs if authorized by a doctor.

    Alabama Licensure Requirements

    • Education: Valid RN license; MSN or DNP from an accredited school

    • Additional Clinical Hours: Fulfilled in degree program

    • Exams: NCLEX-RN plus national certification by examination in intended specialty from an approved national certification agency

    • Renewal Frequency: Every two years; separate renewal for national certification every five years

    • Continuing Education: 12 continuing education hours in pharmacology within the licensing period

Online Nursing Degree Programs and Licensing in Alabama FAQ

  • What Nursing Field Makes the Most Money?

    NPs rank among the highest-paid nurses in the U.S. In Alabama, NPs earned mean annual wages of $95,970 in 2018, significantly above the average annual salary of $59,570 for RNs in the state.

  • Can Someone Become a Nurse in Two Years?

    A one-year LPN program offers the fastest path to a nursing career, but with limited responsibilities compared to RNs. Alabama grants RN licenses to graduates of nursing diploma and associate of nursing programs, which require about two years to complete.

  • Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree?

    Graduates of accredited online nursing programs receive the same quality training as traditional, campus-based degrees. These programs prepare them for licensing exams and develop the skills needed for several nursing specialties.

  • How Hard Is It to Get Into Nursing School in Alabama?

    Nursing programs across the country turn away thousands of qualified applicants each year. Acceptance rates differ widely for nursing programs in Alabama. Most programs look for applicants with high GPA and ACT scores, but these performance indicators do not guarantee admittance.

  • Is Alabama a Nurse Compact State?

    Alabama became an eNLC member in 2020. Membership allows RNs and LPNs with a multistate license to practice in their home state and other eNLC states.

Alabama Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends

The employment outlook for nursing in Alabama remains strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an almost 13% growth for RN jobs in Alabama from 2016-2026, slightly higher than the national average. NPs can expect a projected 30% increase in the same period. The state anticipates a significant shortfall in the supply of LPNs by 2030.

While nurse salaries in Alabama fall below the national mean at all levels, the cost of living remains among the most affordable in the U.S. Employment prospects continue to expand for nurses just entering the field. APNs can expect the most opportunities and highest salaries.

While earning a degree does not guarantee employment, educational credentials in nursing fields play an important role in professional advancement and salary potential.

Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Alabama, by Type

  Annual Mean Wage Projected Job Growth(2016-2026)
Certified Nurse Assistant $24,110 7.2%
Licensed Practical Nurse $38,230 7.3%
Registered Nurse $59,470 12.9%
Nurse Practitioner $95,970 30.4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Projections Central

Annual Mean Nurse Wages in Nearby States

  Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Nurse Practitioner
United States $29,580 $47,050 $75,510 $110,030
Mississippi $23,100 $37,930 $58,490 $109,700
Tennessee $26,400 $40,120 $61,320 $95,990
Georgia $25,870 $41,690 $68,950 $106,750
Florida $26,840 $44,400 $66,210 $101,100

Source: BLS

Certified Nurse Assistant


The 2018 mean annual wage of $24,110 for Alabama CNAs, while below the national average, ranks above its neighboring states of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Salaries for CNAs in Alabama vary considerably, with the lowest 10% earning $18,230 a year and the highest 10% earning $31,280. The majority of CNAs find employment in nursing care and skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and retirement and assisted living communities. Job prospects may increase in response to the expanding interest in home and community-based long-term healthcare.

Licensed Practical Nurse


LPNs find the highest levels of employment and wages in nursing care and skilled nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, and hospitals. Alabama’s LPNs earned a mean annual wage of $38,230 in 2018, coming in at more than $8,800 lower than the national average for this occupation. However, salaries in the state range widely, depending on experience and medical settings, with the top 10% earning $49,330 a year. The demand will remain especially high for LPNs who are willing to work in rural and underserved areas.

Registered Nurse


RNs in Alabama earned a mean annual wage of $59,470 in 2018, well below the national average and among the lowest in nearby southern states. However, RNs in the state consistently earn significantly more than LPNs and CNAs. Over one-third of Alabama’s 49,000 RNs work in the metropolitan Birmingham area, which includes one of the state’s major healthcare employers in the top-ranked University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

While Alabama grants RN licensure to diploma and associate degree-holders, graduates of BSN programs experience better job and salary prospects.

Nurse Practitioner


NPs, advanced practice nurses who provide many of the same services as physicians, earn the highest salaries of all nursing fields in Alabama. While the mean annual wage of $95,970 for Alabama NPs falls over $14,000 below the national average for this field, the top earners with the most specialized experience can expect salaries that reach $128,000 annually. The projected demand for these professionals will continue to expand in response to a growing recognition of NPs as primary and preventive healthcare providers.

Nursing Resources for Alabama

  • Alabama Association of Nurse Anesthetists ALANA provides resources for nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists. The association publishes a quarterly nurse letter, offers career and licensing resources, and provides information about the role of nurse anesthetists.
  • Alabama State Nurses Association This state affiliate of the American Nurses Association represents over 95,000 nurses in Alabama. Members benefit from a career center, subscriptions to professional publications, and discounted certification and continuing education.
  • Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama The NPAA promotes access to quality healthcare in Alabama by advocating for a full scope of practice for NPs in the state. The Alliance monitors governmental practice and workplace issues.
  • Alabama State Board of Nursing This state government agency establishes policy and legal standards for nursing education and nursing practice. ABN issues licenses, provides continuing education opportunities for license renewal, and maintains a resource center.
  • Alabama Association of School Nurses AASN promotes the delivery of quality healthcare in Alabama schools through the advancement of the school nursing profession. The association sponsors an annual conference, along with awards, district workshops, and continuing education courses.

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Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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