Texas offers registered nurses (RNs) a variety of benefits, including good salaries and a projected faster-than-average 7% job growth rate through 2029. Texas RNs earn an average of $74,540, which falls within the nation’s second-highest mean wage bracket for the occupation. RNs in metropolitan areas like Houston can earn even more.
Texas ranks second for highest employment levels of RNs, offering opportunities in hospitals, physicians’ offices, home health care, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient care centers.
This guide details how to become an RN in Texas, including educational and licensing requirements, salary and employment data, and information about the best places to work.
How to Become an RN in Texas
The timeline for becoming an RN varies depending on the educational path pursued. Generally, it takes 2-4 years to earn a nursing degree that qualifies RN candidates to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Students should ensure that their nursing program is on the Texas Board of Nursing’s list of approved programs. Many on this list also hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Education Requirements in Texas
Texas RNs can seek licensure after earning their nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing (ADN), or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Increasingly, a BSN has become the nationwide standard credential for RNs, with 46% of employers requiring BSNs and 88% preferring them.
BSN programs typically take four years to complete, while students can earn diplomas or ADNs in 2-3 years. However, the extra year or two of study needed to earn a BSN increases employment opportunities and salary potential. RNs with a nursing diploma or an ADN might consider RN-to-BSN bridge programs, which apply previously earned credits and work experience, allowing licensed RNs to earn a BSN in 18-24 months, depending on full- or part-time enrollment. Another option is an accelerated degree program, which allows students with a Bachelor’s degree in a different field to earn a BSN degree in only 12 to 18 months.
While some students prefer to enter a BSN program right away, others earn an ADN and work as RNs for a year or two before pursuing a BSN.
Licensure Requirements in Texas
Every U. S. state, including Texas, requires that an RN be licensed in order to practice. The state nursing board requires applicants to graduate from an approved nursing school, undergo a criminal background check, and pass the NCLEX-RN and Texas nursing jurisprudence examinations. The jurisprudence exam tests knowledge of laws and ethics relevant to nursing.
The NCLEX-RN consists of primarily multiple-choice questions with alternate question types, such as fill-in-the-blank, charts and exhibits, and multiple responses. It is a computer-adapted test, which means that the number and difficulty of questions will change as you answer questions, until the computer can determine whether you have enough knowledge to pass, or fail, the test. Examinees must answer a minimum of 75 questions out of a maximum of 265, including 15 experimental questions that do not count against the final score. Test-takers have six hours to complete the exam with optional breaks after two hours and again after 3.5 hours of testing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many RNs are there in Texas?
According to the BLS, Texas ranks second among U.S. states for the highest employment level of RNs, with 218,090. In addition, both the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas rank among the top 10 urban areas for high employment levels of RNs, with 60,620 and 54,780 employed respectively.
How long does it take to be a RN in Texas?
ADN-holders who earn RN licensure graduate in 2-3 years and BSN students graduate in about four years. If a prospective RN pursues a diploma or ADN, works for 1-2 years as an RN, then pursues a bachelor’s degree, the timeline spans 4-7 years.
Is there a nursing shortage in Texas?
The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a shortage of RNs from 2018- 2032. While the supply of RNs should grow by 30.5%, the demand should reach 38.8%. Numerically, the RN supply should increase from 223,581 to 291,872, with projected demand reaching 348,883, leaving a need for 57,012 additional nurses to cover this increased demand.
How much is a RN license in TX?
A Texas nursing license costs $100 for RNs who obtain their credentials by examination. RNs who hold licenses in other states and gain Texas licensure by endorsement pay $186. Licenses must be renewed every two years at a cost of $68. Other costs include $200 to register for the NCLEX-RN exam.
How many clinical hours are needed for RN in Texas?
According to the Texas Board of Nursing, approved RN education programs should include three hours of clinical experience for every hour of instruction. Clinical hours include nursing skills practice, simulated clinical experience, supervised clinical care, conferences, and observation. License renewal requires a minimum of 20 contact hours of continuing education during each two-year period.
Salary and Employment for Registered Nurses in Texas
As of May 2019, the BLS counts 218,090 RNs in Texas, making an annual mean wage of $74,540. The lowest-paid 10% in the industry earn $52,080 a year, while the top 10% make $111,220. The 60,620 RNs working in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area bring in an annual mean wage of $76,740, and the 54,780 Houston-area RNs make $81,350.
In addition to nurse salary in Texas, the BLS lists benefits RNs earn, such as paid leave, supplemental pay, and retirement and savings, which raise RNs’ total annual compensation to more than $100,000.
RNs with BSNs make more than $6,000 per year, on average, than RNs with ADNs. The Texas Department of State Health Services data demonstrates how salary potential has affected nursing education. In 2010, only 44% of RNs held BSNs, but in 2019, 50.6% of RNs listed BSNs as their highest degree earned.
Working as an RN in Texas
Current Texas Department of State Health Services numbers indicate a shortage of RNs in the state. 2019 vacancy rates totaled 5.9% in hospitals, 12.7% at long-term care facilities, and 10.8% in public health. Forecasts show a widening gap between supply and demand, with a shortfall of nearly 28,000 RNs in 2018 increasing to a projected shortage of more than 57,000 in 2032.
Newly admitted RN students, enrollment, and graduates have trended up in the past 10 years. Total enrollment in nurse training programs rose from a low of 22,866 in 2011 to 26,624 in 2019. Graduates of Texas nursing schools also increased from the 10,000s earlier in the decade to nearly 13,000 in 2019.
Best Hospitals to Work at in Texas
According to U.S. News, Dallas and Houston boast the five best hospitals in Texas. These medical centers rose to the top of 566 hospitals, with Houston Methodist Hospital taking the #1 spot. U.S. News uses two subcomponents in its evaluations to determine how hospitals stack up: specialty rankings, which focus on treatments for life-threatening or rare illnesses and conditions, and procedure and condition ratings, which address more common surgeries and treatments.
U.S. News selected these Texas hospitals as the five best workplaces for medical staff, including nurses:
Houston Methodist Hospital
Nationally ranked in 11 specialty areas, Houston Methodist provides leadership in cancer treatments, heart and vascular treatments, neurology and neuroscience, organ transplants, and orthopedics. Houston Methodists’ eight hospitals are part of the Magnet Recognition Program, and offer professional development opportunities and a nurse residency program.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Located in Dallas, UT Southwestern offers care in 80 specialty areas, including brain diseases and disorders, cancer treatments, heart and vascular health, transplants, and spinal care. UT Southwestern also provides medical education and research and employs 3,400 RNs.
Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center
Houston-based Baylor St. Luke’s boasts five nationally-ranked adult specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, and neurology and neurosurgery. Baylor St. Luke’s holds designation as a Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence. Its Rapid Response nursing team staffs the ICU, caring for COVID-19 patients and others with urgent needs.
Baylor University Medical Center
Part of Dallas’ Baylor Scott & White Health, nonprofit hospital BUMC employs 2,200 RNs, 89% of which hold BSNs. A Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence, BUMC has been recognized for quality patient care and high rates of job satisfaction among nurses. More than 20 specialties include cancer, neuroscience, transplants, and trauma services.
Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center
Memorial Hermann houses one of two certified Level 1 trauma centers in Houston and holds Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence designation. The medical center’s specialties include heart and vascular, organ transplants, orthopedics, surgery, and women’s health.
Find Out More About RN Programs in Texas
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The Best LVN to BSN Programs in Texas
Top Texas Nursing Schools & Colleges
Best Texas RN BSN Degree Programs
Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Nicole Galan is a registered nurse who started on a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved into infertility care where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.