Become a Nurse in Texas: Requirements, Licensing, and Employment Outlook
| Kristen Hamlin
The second most populous state in the country, Texas has a steadily growing population and an increasing demand for healthcare. In fact, according to one hospital magazine, Becker's Hospital Review, Texas has more hospitals than any other state. This translates to plenty of opportunities for nurses at all stages of their careers.
If you are interested in learning how to become a registered nurse (RN) in Texas, the following guide covers everything you need to know, including how to apply for your first license and helpful organizations in the field.
How to Become a Nurse in Texas
Becoming a licensed nurse in Texas begins with education. Earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing school is the first step toward a long, fulfilling career in nursing. Getting licensed as a nurse also requires passing exams and background checks along with staying on top of continuing education requirements.
Apply to an ADN or a BSN Degree Program.
Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to Receive RN Licensure.
Apply for Jobs at Local Hospitals.
Advance Your Career With a Graduate Degree or Certification.
Maintain and Renew Licensure and Certifications.
Texas Board of Nursing
The Texas Board of Nursing (BON) is committed to ensuring licensed nurses in Texas are competent and prepared to provide safe, high-quality care. The board is responsible for licensing nurses at all levels; approving nurse education programs and nursing schools in Texas; and enforcing the rules, regulations, and standards of practice.
How to Get Your Nursing License in Texas
New nurses in Texas must pass an examination to be licensed, while those with an active license in another state can apply for an endorsement.
Regardless of the licensure method, nurses seeking to work in Texas must pass the BON nursing jurisprudence examination. New nurses must pass this before taking the NCLEX-RN exam. Texas also maintains strict eligibility requirements, and all nurses must submit fingerprints and pass background checks.
Texas defines a new nurse as anyone who has not previously held an RN license. Individuals who have recently completed a nursing degree and have not yet taken the NCLEX-RN exam fall into this category. Getting a license to practice involves completing the Texas Board of Nursing requirements, which are detailed below.
RN Licensure Eligibility Requirements
To be licensed as a nurse in Texas, you must earn an ADN, BSN, or graduate degree. Bridge programs, such as a licensed vocational nurse to ADN or BSN program, are accepted. After graduation, the state requires two exams: the jurisprudence exam and the NCLEX-RN. The nursing jurisprudence exam covers BON rules and regulations and the Nursing Practice Act.
Prospective nurses must also submit fingerprints and agree to a criminal background check. Certain criminal offenses may disqualify you from becoming a nurse.
Once the BON receives an affidavit from your nursing school confirming your degree, you fulfill the testing and background requirements, and pay the applicable fees, you will be granted a nursing license. As of June 2021, the costs include $100 for NCLEX-RN authorization, $25 for the jurisprudence exam, and $150 for the license, plus a background check fee.
Steps to Apply for an RN License
The Texas RN licensing process begins while you are still in nursing school and is done online. The only exception is if you answer "yes" to any of the questions related to your criminal background that could affect license eligibility. In that case, you might need to submit a paper application.
- At least 30 days before graduation, submit an online examination application in the Texas Nurse Portal for authorization to take the NCLEX-RN.
- Submit the application for fingerprinting and a background check and an application to take the Texas nursing jurisprudence exam.
- Register with Pearson Vue to take the NCLEX-RN exam. You cannot take the exam until the BON grants authorization to test (ATT). ATT is granted once your nursing school submits a graduation affidavit and you pass the nursing jurisprudence exam. You may take the jurisprudence exam 15 days after you register.
- Take the NCLEX-RN exam.
- Upon passing the exam, you will be granted a certificate and may complete an online verification to receive proof of licensure.
All fees are paid when you submit your online applications. License processing time currently takes 15-20 days once all paperwork and exams are complete.
Nurses who have a license from a different state can practice in Texas once they meet the BON requirements. Provided that you have an active license and have passed your nursing exams, you can practice nursing in your new home within a few weeks. Follow the steps below to get your Texas RN license.
Steps to Apply for an RN License
If you have an RN license from another state, you may be able to practice in Texas without having to obtain an additional license. Texas is a member of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), meaning that if you have a license from another eNLC state, you can practice in Texas with compact privilege. However, eNLC nurses must still overview the Texas Nursing Practice Act to uphold current safety laws in Texas.
Those without a multistate licence can still practice in Texas by earning licensure through endorsement. Out-of-state nurses who have a degree from an approved nursing program, passed the NCLEX-RN, and worked in nursing within the previous four years are eligible.
- Complete the nurse endorsement online application found on the Texas Nurse Portal on the BON website. This includes an authorization for fingerprinting and a background check.
- Take and pass the nursing jurisprudence exam.
- Submit licensure verification for all other states where you hold or have ever held a nursing license. Some states use Nursys. If your state does not use Nursys, you may request verification from your state licensing board using the BON verification licensure form.
All applicable fees ($150 for the endorsement, $25 for the jurisprudence exam, and background check fees) are submitted with the applications. Upon receipt of your initial application, you will receive a 120-day temporary license within 15 days. Processing of all paperwork and documentation takes 15-20 days.
How to Renew Your Nursing License in Texas
Texas requires nurses to renew their licenses every two years. Licenses expire in your birth month, and you must apply for license renewal online using the Texas Nurse Portal no more than two months before the expiration date.
To qualify for license renewal, your license must be active and in good standing. Certain issues can affect eligibility, including criminal offenses, defaulting on student loans, or failing to meet continuing education requirements. All nurses must complete a minimum of 20 CNE hours before applying for renewal. Some CNE hours must be in specific subject areas; for example, all nurses must complete at least two hours of CNE related to nursing jurisprudence and nursing ethics.
The cost to renew a nursing license is $68 as of June 2021. If your license is inactive, or you are renewing after delinquent status, the state charges additional fees.
Salary and Employment Outlook for Nurses in Texas
The annual mean wage for nurses in Texas is $76,800 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Texas ranks second in overall RN employment, trailing only California. Job opportunities for nurses in Texas are expected to increase by 16.8% by 2028.
The highest-paying metro areas for Texas nurses are listed in the chart below. Perhaps not coincidentally, many of the state's best hospitals are also located in these areas.
Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for RNs
|Metropolitan Area||Mean Annual Salary|
|Houston — The Woodlands-Sugar Land||$84,960|
|Killeen — Temple||$77,000|
|Dallas — Fort Worth-Arlington||$77,990|
|San Antonio — New Braunfels||$75,110|
Best Hospitals to Work as a Nurse in Texas
Every year, U.S. News & World Report ranks hospitals nationwide based on their delivery of high-quality general and specialty healthcare. Factors that go into ranking include patient outcomes and experiences, the number of patients treated, nursing staff, and transparency.
We pulled the top five best Texas hospitals to determine the best places for nurses to work in Texas. All of these hospitals offer exceptional opportunities for nurses in terms of work environment and opportunities for growth.
Houston Methodist HospitalHouston Methodist Hospital is one of the nation's best in terms of patient safety and is nationally ranked in more than 11 specialties, including cancer care and cardiology. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) awarded the facility with Magnet accreditation as a testament to its quality of nursing care.
UT Southwestern Medical CenterUT Southwestern is nationally recognized in 17 specialty areas such as cardiology and neurology. With more than 3,400 nurses on staff, the hospital has achieved ANCC Magnet status in recognition of its excellent care and exceptional work environment.
Baylor St. Luke's Medical CenterOne of the nation's top hospitals for cancer and cardiac care, Baylor St. Luke's is also an ANCC Magnet hospital for its first-rate nursing care. Nurses are encouraged to grow their careers here with nurse leadership opportunities, while recent graduates can apply to the nurse residency program.
Baylor University Medical CenterNationally ranked for gastroenterology and gynecology, this Dallas hospital is an ANCC Magnet hospital. Nurses here report high job satisfaction and autonomy in their practice.
Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical CenterThe teaching hospital for the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, Memorial Hermann is a level 1 trauma center and recognized for excellence in several practice areas. It is also an ANCC Magnet hospital. Nurses receive quality support and benefit from opportunities for professional growth and development.
Resources for Nurses in Texas
Texas Nurses AssociationThe largest and oldest nursing association in Texas, the TNA advocates for the advancement of the nursing profession. As part of the American Nurses Association, it is not a union or regulatory agency but rather a voice for nurses in Texas. Membership is open to licensed RNs. Benefits include opportunities to serve on committees, CNE courses, discounts, and a job board.
Texas Board of Nursing CNE Course CatalogThe BON offers a selection of workshops, all approved for CNE credit toward license renewal. Many of the workshops are self-paced, although some are delivered via online webinars. The BON also offers a prep course for the required nursing jurisprudence exam. This course does not award CNE or apply toward license renewal.
Texas Peer Assistance Program for NursesThis program supports nurses with mental health or substance misuse disorders, allowing nurses to get the help they might need. Through the peer assistance program, nurses can continue practicing safely through early identification, support, accountability, and advocacy. The program helps develop a treatment plan, which includes peer support from a volunteer advocate.
Texas Nurse PractitionersTNP is devoted to advancing, supporting, and promoting NP roles and high-quality healthcare throughout the state of Texas. Membership is open to NPs and offers access to advocacy opportunities, continuing education resources, career services, practice resources, discounts, and networking opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become an RN in Texas?
Expect to spend 2-4 years becoming a licensed nurse in Texas. Completing an ADN to prepare for the NCLEX-RN takes a minimum of two years; a BSN program typically takes at least four years. Once you complete your education, applying for a license, taking exams, and application reviews may take 6-8 weeks after graduation.
Is Texas a good place for nurses?
Texas offers many opportunities for nurses in rural and urban settings, including some of the most highly respected hospitals in the nation. The state ranks second in overall employment in nurses and has a low cost of living. Demand for nurses is projected to increase by 16.8% by 2028 — more than twice the national projection.
What states can a Texas nurse work in?
Texas is part of the eNLC. Therefore, licensed RNs from Texas may work in other eNLC states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Legislation is currently pending in other states.
Can you get a temporary RN license in Texas?
If you are a licensed nurse and move to Texas, you can be granted a 120-day temporary license while your credentials are verified. Licensed vocational/practical nurses and RNs who have previously been licensed but have not worked in nursing during the previous four years may also be granted a temporary six-month permit while completing educational refreshers or nursing orientation courses.
Top Nursing Programs in Texas
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