Whether you’re an Alabama resident drawn to a career in nursing or a prospective out-of-state student attracted to the profession’s fast job growth rate, Alabama is a great place to start your nursing career. An aging national population and statewide healthcare boom have both led to a high local demand for nurses. If you want an exciting, satisfying career helping others and saving lives, nursing might be the job for you — and Alabama could be the place to find it. As the home of world-class healthcare facilities like the University of Alabama hospital system, as well as numerous university-backed medical research centers, the state is quickly building a reputation as one of the best places to study — and seek — medical care in the United States.
What if you’d love to start a new career in the field of nursing, but can’t afford to quit your current job? What if you just plain can’t afford a four-year on-campus college program? Earning an online nursing degree can be an easy, affordable way to pursue a career in this high-demand field. In this guide, we’ll take a step-by-step look at how you can land the nursing job of your choice through distance learning programs.
How to Become a Nurse in Alabama
While nurses around the country study similar subjects whether they take traditional on-campus courses or attend nursing school online, Alabama nurses must meet licensure standards set by the state. The cost and procedure for becoming licensed will depend on the type of online nursing degree you receive. Not sure what the path of a nursing student entails? Let’s take a step-by-step look at the process of becoming a nurse in the state of Alabama.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
Your first step should be to define your career goals. What kind of nurse do you want to be, and what type of facility would you like to work in? While it’s possible to become an RN with only an associate degree, earning a BSN can ultimately lead to greater responsibilities and higher wages. A competitive job market has led to the increasing popularity of online RN to BSN programs in Alabama. But what if you want to go even further, developing expertise in a specialized field? Most advanced practice nurses, such as nurse anesthetists or practitioners, must complete a master’s degree, or even a DNP.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Is an online nursing degree right for you? There are many accelerated nursing programs in Alabama that allow students to earn a degree in as little as a year, using convenient online delivery methods. However, online degrees aren’t for everyone. 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 have extensive prerequisite course requirements. Nonetheless, many students prefer the convenience of earning their degree online.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Most nursing schools in Alabama don’t offer licensing exams as part of an online nursing degree; however, the knowledge you gain from the program’s coursework will help prepare you for your exam. Graduates of both traditional and online nursing schools in Alabama must complete an RN or LPN certification exam, while RNs must also pass the NCLEX exam, which they can prepare for with study materials available online. After paying a fee of $200, prospective RNs have up to six hours to complete the NCLEX. Licensure doesn’t guarantee you a nursing job, but it gives you the chance to pursue one.
Nursing Licensure in Alabama
Students at all nursing schools in Alabama must be licensed before practicing, regardless of their educational level. Registered nurses and graduates of online RN to BSN programs in Alabama must also complete the NCLEX-RN exam. Both LPNs and RNs can apply for licensure through the Alabama Board of Nursing. After successfully completing the exam, first-time applicants receive a temporary permit that allows them to apply for nursing positions while they wait for their official license, which is then valid for a period of two years. If a nurse’s license lapses, or they are certified to practice in Alabama but wish to move to another state, the nurse must apply for licensure by school or professional endorsement.
The NCLEX-RN exam is not offered through the Alabama Board of Nursing website, nor through nursing schools in Alabama. Offered through the Pearson Vue website, the exam tests critical thinking and analytical skills across four categories and eight subcategories that include safety and infection control, risk reduction, and pharmacology. The NCLEX-RN exam takes up to six hours to complete, and has several state fees associated with it. The table below demonstrates the approximate costs of applying for the NCLEX-RN in Alabama.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Alabama
Board Fee $100
Career Outlook for Nurses in Alabama
There are more than 47,440 registered nurses currently employed in Alabama, but that’s still not enough to meet the need. As the healthcare industry becomes a major force in the state’s economy, the demand for registered nurses has skyrocketed, while the national job growth rate is at a speedy 15%. If you’ve been considering online RN programs in Alabama, now is a great time to get started! With numerous hospital systems and medical centers in the state, nurses who complete RN programs in Alabama — or any other online nursing degree — have their choice of employment options. While at first glance, the wages listed in the table below might seem low compared to national averages, the state’s relatively low cost of living should be considered.
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Biggest Hospitals in Alabama
Living near a large hospital can be a plus for those earning an online nursing degree and recent grads alike. Most online nursing programs in Alabama require a period of residency or experiential learning, and large hospitals often have well-structured teaching programs in place. They’re also more likely to offer internship or fellowship programs, and tend to have more job openings. It’s worth checking out what these large hospitals have to offer:
- University of Alabama Hospital: Founded in 1945, this Birmingham facility holds 1,157 beds — more than any other hospital in the state. With 18,750 employees, it’s also one of the largest employers in both the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area and the state of Alabama. UAB Hospital is world-renowned for its seven specialty programs.
- Huntsville Hospital: Known for its state-of-the-art orthopedic and heart centers, Huntsville Hospital employs roughly 10,000 individuals. Used by the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine for clinical rotations, it also acts as a teaching hospital for local family practice, pharmacy, and nursing students from various Alabama institutions.
Additional Nursing Resources in Alabama
Alabama Nursing Resource Center
An online resource for information on licensure, employment options, professional protocols, and nursing schools in Alabama, this site provides helpful up-to-date information for in-state nurses. Be sure to check out the site’s graduate scholarships, as well as its extensive list of continuing education programs.
Alabama State Nurses Association
This professional organization for Alabama registered nurses is committed to advocacy, community, and education. In addition to members-only job boards, networking opportunities, and online continuing education programs, the organization holds multiple seminars, conferences, and leadership summits each year. Other benefits include webinars, certification discounts, and a monthly journal subscription.
Alabama Association of School Nurses
The AASN is a professional organization dedicated to the promotion of nurses and nursing in schools in Alabama. Like many similar groups, it offers conferences, continuing education courses, and workshops, as well as hands-on resources (such as templates and forms) for use in the workplace.
Alabama Emergency Nurses Association
Emergency nurses can explore the state-specific resources available on this site, while members may participate in regular meetings, conferences, and other events sponsored by this highly active professional organization. It’s also a great resource for those wanting to learn more about nursing colleges in Alabama that offer advanced practice programs.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Alabama