Nursing is a lucrative and high-demand field, with almost 3 million registered nurses (RNs) across the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for nurses will grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026 -- more than twice as fast as the national average for all other jobs. Caused in part by its increasingly large senior citizen population, Arizona suffers from an acute shortage of nurses. The state currently provides only 681 RNs for every 100,000 residents, far below the national average of 825 RNs per resident. More than half of Arizonans cannot access quality healthcare, and nurses can play a significant role in improving health management. Banner Health -- the state's largest employer -- maintains its headquarters in Phoenix, and nursing schools in Arizona partner with Banner and other large hospitals for clinical rotations.
The average salary for an RN in the U.S. is $63,000 per year; however, according to PayScale, nurses in Phoenix receive 4% higher salaries. Nursing is an attractive profession for Arizonans thanks to the combination high demand for nurses and lucrative salaries. Additionally, since nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and other specialists can earn even more lucrative wages, the field is particularly well-suited for individuals interested in seeking career advancement by pursuing an online nursing degree.
How to Become a Nurse in Arizona
The first step towards becoming a nurse in Arizona is earning an on-campus or online nursing degree from an accredited nursing college. Aspiring nurses must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which costs $300, and clear a criminal background check, which costs $50. According to the Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBN), individuals who pass the test can expect to receive their license in the mail 3-5 months after registering for the exam.
1. Choose the Path That's Right for You
To become a registered nurse, candidates must earn an on-campus or online nursing degree. At a minimum, an associate degree can serve as academic preparation. However, many nurses now choose to start their careers by earning a bachelor's degree through an online BSN program in Arizona. Students who plan to advance in the field by becoming family nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, or college-level nursing instructors must also go on to pursue a master's degree or even a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP).
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning an online nursing degree appeals to many busy professionals because it allows them to study at their convenience. Most entry-level nursing programs in Arizona require students to complete rounds of clinical practice; as such, schools do not typically offer these degrees in a fully online format. To gain admittance, the majority of applicants to associate and bachelor's programs must pass a nursing admissions test and meet the general admission requirements at nursing schools in Arizona. Associate degrees take 1-2 years to complete, while bachelor's degrees typically take four years. Students in online nursing programs in Arizona also take science courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy, in addition to general education courses and specialty nursing classes.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Graduates of nursing schools in Arizona must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to earn an RN license. It costs $300 to sit for the exam. Nursing programs prepare students to answer the NCLEX-RN's 75-265 questions within the allotted time frame of six hours, although successful candidates often study daily on their own for two months before taking the test. After graduating from an approved program, passing the NCLEX-RN, and clearing a criminal background check, candidates receive their license from the state board. While the board and individual nursing schools in Arizona cannot guarantee that an applicant will receive a position, nurses must hold this license before they can apply for an RN position in the state.
Nursing Licensure in Arizona
To become a registered nurse in Arizona, a candidate must pass the NCLEX-RN examination. This exam tests a candidate's knowledge of entry-level nursing practices. To take the NCLEX-RN, a student must have completed an approved nursing program at a college or university. At Arizona nursing schools, these approved programs include science courses, nursing practice classes, and clinical components. Students at nursing schools in Arizona can choose to become a nurse by completing an associate or bachelor's program. Associate-level online nursing degrees require approximately two years to complete, while bachelor's degrees take around four years. Additionally, bachelor's-level online nursing degrees provide more in-depth study and often result in more career opportunities.
AZBN oversees licensing for nurses in the state. This board authorizes graduates from nursing schools in Arizona to take the NCLEX-RN exam. It does not, however, provide an official study guide. Once a student completes a required academic program, they must apply to AZBN for permission to take the NCLEX-RN. Once an individual passes the NCLEX-RN exam, they must also pass a criminal background check. Felony convictions and pending criminal charges may prevent some applicants from becoming nurses. After clearing all of the requirements, successful candidates receive a nursing license in the mail from AZBN.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Arizona
Application Fee $300
Background Check $50
State Requirements By Nursing Type
Applicants educated in the U.S. can apply for Arizona RN licensure if they hold a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing from a board-approved program. They must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam. To do this, Arizona graduates need to provide a certificate of completion from an approved nursing program. Out-of-state graduates must submit their transcripts -- including their degree type and graduation date -- directly from their college to AZBN. To earn RN licensure by examination, candidates pay a $300 application fee plus a $50 fee for fingerprinting.
Arizona is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, meaning the state recognizes out-of-state RN and licensed practical nurse (LPN) credentials from any of the 31 participating states. Therefore, licensed RNs from member states need not apply for licensure in Arizona. Licensed RNs from non-compact states, as well as those who wish to make Arizona their primary residence, can apply for licensure by endorsement. Applicants must hold a passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam or the State Board Test Pool Exam (SBTPE). Candidates must also have completed 960 hours of nursing practice in the last five years, graduated from a nursing program within the past five years, or completed an AZBN-approved refresher course within the last five years. Additionally, individuals who earned an advanced degree in nursing within the past five years can qualify.
Every four years, RNs in Arizona must renew their license. To maintain eligibility, an RN must have completed one of the four following requirements within the previous five-year period: practice as a nurse for at least 960 hours, graduate with a nursing degree, complete a board-approved refresher course, or earn an advanced nursing degree.
In Arizona, nurses can earn a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certification by examination. Open to individuals who have completed an approved nursing assistant program, candidates must also earn a passing score on the state nursing assistant exam to receive certification. Applicants should go over requirements carefully before submitting their application. Candidates should complete each question on the application thoroughly, enclose lawful presence documentation, and submit a fingerprint card for a background check.
Arizona also grants this type of certification by endorsement, which allows candidates to meet educational requirements in a variety of ways. Candidates can qualify by submitting a copy of their certificate of completion from a nursing assistant program approved by AZBN or proof of finishing a 120-hour nursing assistant program approved by another state. Applicants who hold at least 45 hours of nursing assistant work experience can also submit proof of finishing a 75-hour nursing assistant program approved by another state. Additionally, applicants can fulfill the educational requirements by submitting proof of graduation from an approved LPN or RN program or by holding a valid RN or LPN license. Candidates must have an active status on a nursing assistant registry in another state and currently work as a nursing assistant, hold at least 160 hours of nursing assistant work experience within the last two years, or have completed a nursing assistant training program and passed the state nursing assistant exam within the last two years.
CNAs must renew their certification every two years. When applying for CNA renewal, individuals can expect to wait between 120 days (without investigation) and 270 days (with investigation) before receiving their renewed certificate.
LPNs must meet specific requirements to earn licensure in Arizona. Candidates can apply for licensure by examination or endorsement. Nurses who apply by examination must hold a nursing certificate or diploma from an approved program and a passing score on the NCLEX-PN exam. Arizona graduates must provide a certificate of completion from their approved program. Out-of-state graduates looking for licensure in Arizona must submit their transcripts -- including their graduation date and degree type -- with their application. All applicants must also submit proof of citizenship and a fingerprint card for a background check. LPN candidates pay a $300 application fee and a $50 fingerprint fee.
As mentioned earlier, Arizona participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact. As such, LPNs with licensure from other compact states can work in Arizona on a temporary basis, without needing to complete the application process. However, if an LPN from a compact state wants to declare Arizona as their primary state of residence, they must complete the licensure by endorsement process. LPNs from non-compact states, as well those who wish to practice long-term in Arizona, must meet licensure requirements in the state and hold a nursing diploma or certificate from a board-approved education program. Applicants from international programs or those who do not speak English natively must pass an English proficiency examination. Candidates must also hold a passing score on either the NCLEX-PN or SBTPE exam, meet the eligibility requirements for an active and unencumbered license, and submit fingerprints for a background check.
Individuals interested in becoming nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists in the state of Arizona must complete a graduate program with a major in nursing. Prospective nurse anesthetists need to complete a certified registered nurse anesthetist program before pursuing licensure. These nursing programs must hold appropriate accreditation from a board-recognized agency and qualify in the local jurisdiction. Depending on the types of nursing individuals want to specialize in, they can pursue their certification from different agencies. The American Nurses Credentialing Center, for example, offers eight certification programs, including specializations in psychiatric/mental health, adult care, and family care. Applicants must submit an application and their fingerprints for a background check. They must also mail in their official college transcripts, along with a letter stating their intended role and population focus. Licensure applicants pay a $150 application fee and a $50 fingerprinting fee.
AZBN recognizes four advanced practice nursing roles: certified nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, registered nurse practitioner, and certified registered nurse anesthetist. Clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners must choose a population focus from the following accepted areas: family/individual across the lifespan, neonatal, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary, and psychiatric mental health. Advanced practice registered nurse hopefuls must maintain active and unencumbered RN licensure, hold a graduate nursing degree, complete an application, identify a role and a population focus, and meet other application requirements as outlined by the state.
Career Outlook for Nurses in Arizona
Arizona's growing economy, vast geographical landscape, and changing demographics have contributed to the state's critical nursing shortage. The demand for LPNs and RNs is at an all-time high. Skilled nurses licensed through AZBN can expect to find rewarding jobs throughout the state, and entry-level nurses receive higher salaries in Arizona than in many other more-populated states.
According to recent Arizona labor statistics, the state's economy is growing more than twice as fast as the national average. These statistics also indicate that healthcare stands as the fastest-growing sector of the state's economy, with a projected growth rate of over 9%. Compensation is particularly high for nurses working with underserved populations in rural areas, those who hold advanced specializations, and travel nurses willing to practice in multiple locations across great distances in order to serve communities in remote parts of the state.
Employment Data For RNs in Arizona
RNs assess patients' health problems and needs to develop and implement care plans, serving a vital role in the rapidly growing healthcare field. The employment and salary opportunities available to RNs vary greatly depending on their level of experience and education. Nationally, RNs make a median annual salary of $70,000, with nurses in the lowest 10% earning around $48,600 per year and nurses in the top 10% earning upwards of $104,000 annually.
In Arizona, RNs earn a mean annual salary of more than $75,000, putting them substantially above the national average. Arizona nurse salaries in the lowest 10% stand at around $54,000 annually, while nurses in the top 10% take home upwards of $99,000 per year. More than 54,000 RNs work in the state, finding employment in a variety of areas. The majority of Arizona RNs work at hospitals, physician's offices, home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers. RNs who work in government organizations and at large hospitals tend to make more than those working in residential care facilities or educational services.
Employment Data For CNAs in Arizona
Qualified to pursue a variety of nursing careers, CNAs in Arizona can choose from several employment opportunities. Nationally, nursing assistants can expect to earn a median annual salary around $27,000, with the lowest 10% earning about $21,000 and the highest 10% earning more than $38,000. Nursing assistants work at nursing care facilities, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare services. Additionally, more than a third of all nursing assistants work in skilled nursing facilities. Nursing assistants who work for the government tend to earn the highest salaries, averaging over $32,000 per year. Meanwhile, those working in assisted living facilities and home healthcare services average less than $26,000 per year.
In Arizona, nursing assistants enjoy an annual mean wage of over $30,000, which is significantly higher than the national average. The state employs 14,300 nursing assistants. Arizona nursing assistants in the lowest 10% make around $24,000, while those in the top 10% earn more than $38,000. Students can review salary and employment data for nurse assistants to get a better idea of what lies ahead of them after graduation.
Employment Data For NPs in Arizona
One of the most sought after careers for nursing students in Arizona -- and across the country -- is the NP role. NPs must earn RN licensure before they can practice their career professionally. NPs can work in gerontology, pediatrics, mental health, women's health, and a variety of other specializations. NPs in the U.S. make an average salary of over $107,000 each year, with the bottom 10% making around $75,000 and the top 10% earning more than $145,000. The most common work environments for NPs include physician's offices, general medical and surgical hospitals, and outpatient care centers. NPs looking for the highest-paying jobs in their field should look to the personal care services industry; these workers earn an annual mean wage of more than $139,000.
In Arizona, nurse practitioners make slightly less than the national average, earning about $105,000 each year. Regardless, this position -- in addition to nurse anesthetists and midwives -- stands as one of the highest-paying occupations for nurses in Arizona.
Biggest Hospitals in Arizona
Over 17% of Arizona's population is over the age of 65, and that percentage should increase as the baby-boomer generation continues to age. Given the state's aging population, it's no surprise that healthcare represents one of Arizona's largest and fastest-growing industries. Nurses in Arizona earn an annual salary above the national average, and they can pursue many advanced careers (e.g., nurse practitioner and physician's assistant positions) by attending one of the state's many colleges and universities. Students at nursing schools in Arizona can apply to become fellows or interns at hospitals across the state, including the two described below.
- Maricopa Integrated Health System: Providing quality healthcare for over 140 years, MIHS serves more than 16,500 inpatients and 432,600 outpatients each year. Over 3,500 medical professionals staff the MIHS hospital, outpatient medical center, two behavioral centers, and 13 family health centers. The only public healthcare system in Arizona, MIHS is also home to the state's lone burn center.
- Banner Health: Based in Phoenix, Banner Health stretches across six western states where it operates 28 hospitals. This nonprofit health system employs 50,000 staff members and stands as Arizona's largest employer. Banner also offers a variety of occupational tracks and many locations for employment.
Additional Nursing Resources in Arizona
- Arizona Nurses Association: AZNA advances good health and promotes the nursing profession throughout the state. This coalition of nurses engages in public policy advocacy, raises money for nursing scholarships, and hosts regular events for nurses. Students pursuing an online nursing degree can join to receive an informational kit and access to the online AZNA community.
- Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: NAPNAP operates an active Arizona chapter that hosts an annual conference. Members can take advantage of educational opportunities and engage in legislative advocacy. NAPNAP's Arizona chapter offers memberships to a variety of practitioners, including pediatric nurse practitioner students, recent graduates, and retirees.
- Student Nurses Association of Arizona: This organization offers awards, scholarships, an annual convention, and volunteer opportunities to its members. Students in any academic program preparing for RN licensure can join SNAAz. Members receive the association's magazine and can network with other student nurses from around the state.
- School Nurses Organization of Arizona: SNOA represents the interests of school nurses and promotes good health among the state's youth. SNOA offers a variety of eLearning options for both personal interest and continuing education. It also provides members with access to publications, resources, conventions, and advocacy opportunities.
- Arizona Association of Nurse Anesthetists: This organization provides networking and continuing-education opportunities for Arizona's nurse anesthetists. It also advocates for the field. Members can attend several conferences hosted by the organization throughout the year.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Arizona
The following list includes all accredited online nursing degrees from nursing schools in Arizona. These include ADN, BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees. Online RN programs in Arizona, including associate programs, usually require some on-campus component since these online nursing degrees lead to initial nursing licensure. Online RN-to-BSN programs in Arizona can help advance the career of a seasoned nursing professional, while online MSN programs in Arizona help nurses specialize in a particular area, such as neonatal, geriatric, or psychiatric care.