To become a registered nurse in Texas, you need to undergo several years of education and training, take nursing examinations, and become properly licensed and certified. After you start working, you also have to continually renew your license and receive continuing education throughout your career.
In other words, becoming an RN is a commitment — but it’s a commitment that’s well worth your time and energy, especially if you want to work in healthcare. As of 2018, the average annual salary for RNs in the US was $75,510 and $72,890 per year in Texas. On top of the national shortage of healthcare workers and rapidly growing demand for RNs, this profession offers plenty of job security, gives you the ability to earn a comfortable living, and allow you to start a meaningful career in which you can help other people.
Because it varies from state to state, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the licensure process and each of the steps you need to take to become an RN in the Lone Star State:
Texas Board of Nursing
In Texas, nursing licensure occurs at the state level and is handled entirely by the Texas Board of Nursing (BON). The BON was first formed in 1909; the first Nursing Practice Act was also passed this year, which formally recognized professional nursing in the state of Texas. In addition to licensing, the BON also enforces state nursing laws, approves state nursing schools and programs to ensure they meet educational requirements for licensure, and provides information about the state’s nursing rules and regulations to the public.
The BON recognizes several different types of nursing licenses, including advanced practice registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses (LVN). They also grant temporary licenses for RNs and LVNs who move to Texas from another state and licenses for recent nursing graduates to practice under the supervision of an RN. Both of these license types allow nurses to work while they undergo the full licensure process.
The BON is located at:
William P. Hobby Building
333 Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78701-3944
For more information, you can contact the BON by phone at (512)-305-7400, by fax at (512)-305-7401, or via email at [email protected].
Registered Nurse Education Requirements
The BON requires all registered nurses to graduate from an accredited nursing degree program before they can apply for licensure. You don’t have to go to a school in Texas, either, as the BON “recognizes graduates from pre-licensure nursing education programs that are approved/accredited by other State Boards of Nursing as eligible to apply to take the NCLEX examination(s) and apply for licensure in Texas.” In other words, as long as your program reflects the national standards necessary for board certification, you can attend a school anywhere in the US. Depending on where you live, you may want to consider going to school in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, or Oklahoma; you could also consider an online degree program.
The BON does not require a certain type of nursing degree for licensure as an RN. At a minimum, you need an associate’s degree in nursing to get licensed. An associate’s degree will allow you to start working more quickly and pose less of a financial strain when it comes to paying for your education. However, you may be better off with a bachelor’s of science in nursing. The field of nursing is becoming increasingly competitive and some 56% of nurses have a BSN or higher degree. A BSN can also make it easier to specialize in a certain area and advance your career, especially if you plan to pursue a master’s degree.
RN Licensure by Examination
In Texas, all new applicants who’ve never been licensed before must apply for RN licensure through examination. You can begin this process while you’re completing your degree. If you currently hold or have previously held an RN license in another jurisdiction, you may be eligible to apply for your license through endorsement instead.
First, you need to determine your eligibility for licensure, particularly as it relates to legal issues. While having a criminal history or previous issues with the law does not automatically exclude you from licensure, you will have to complete a paper application and completely disclose that history to the BON. If you have nothing to disclose, you can complete your application online using the Initial Licensure Application portal.
Fingerprinting and Background Checks
After submitting your application, you must undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check (CBC). All electronic fingerprinting is done by IdentoGo. You can make an appointment online or over the phone by calling (888)-467-2080.
You must bring a valid Texas driver’s license (or another form of government-issued photo ID) to your appointment. Fingerprinting costs $10, plus an additional $29.75 fee for the State and National Criminal History Record. Your results will be sent directly to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The CBC is based on the results of your fingerprinting the DPS and the FBI. You cannot use a background check completed by another facility. The results of the CBC will be sent directly to the BON for approval.
In Texas, you have to take two exams before receiving your license: the NCLEX-RN exam and the Texas nursing jurisprudence exam. You have to take the jurisprudence exam before you can take the NCLEX exam.
The nursing jurisprudence exam is offered by BON and can be taken directly on their website. The test is 50 questions long and you will have two hours to complete it. Though the exam is open-book, the BON still recommends reviewing current and previous Nursing Practice Acts, going over BON rules and regulations, and taking the online jurisprudence prep course to study. You must get at least 38 (or 75%) of the questions correct to pass. Your results will automatically be recorded in your online BON account. If you fail, you can retake the exam after 24 hours have passed. If you pass the exam, you will be authorized to take the NCLEX exam.
The NCLEX-RN exam costs $200 and is offered by Pearson Vue. After being authorized by the BON, you can register for it online. It ranges from 75 to 265 questions; the number of questions you ultimately have to answer depends on correct answers and performance throughout the exam. You should study as thoroughly as possible, especially with a variety of practice tests, to prepare for the test. You will have six hours to complete the exam. As of 2019, the pass rate of the NCLEX-RN exam was 91.9% in Texas. Scoring is also based on how the computer perceives your knowledge and abilities, but the BON will receive your results in five days. Upon passing, you will receive a certificate.
Applying for Licensure
To apply for your license, you must:
- Submit your application;
- Pay the $100 application fee;
- Undergo fingerprinting and pass the CBC;
- Pass the nurse jurisprudence and NCLEX-RN exams;
- Submit your affidavit of graduation.
Upon successfully completing all of the above tasks and sharing the necessary information with the BON, you will receive your nursing license. You can access your license online using the Licensure Verification portal. You can then print the verification to show proof of licensure and begin working as an RN.
RN Licensure by Endorsement (Out of State Applicants)
The BON defines endorsement as “the process of issuing a permanent license without further examination to a nurse from another jurisdiction or licensing authority after determination is made that the applicant meets the same standards as those required of Texas nurses.” In other words, if you’re moving to Texas from another state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement, rather than going through the entire examination process.
To be eligible for endorsement, you must have graduated from an approved RN program, taken the appropriate licensure exam in your state, and have taken the NCLEX-RN exam or worked in nursing sometime in the four years immediately prior to your application. You are ineligible for endorsement if you have not graduated from an approved program, have not taken the NCLEX-RN exam, or if you have previously held a Texas RN license.
To apply for a license by endorsement, you must:
- Complete either the Online Endorsement Application or the Fillable PDF Endorsement Application;
- Undergo a criminal background check and fingerprinting (unless you already have one on file with the BON);
- Take and pass the nursing jurisprudence exam;
- Submit verification of licensure from all previous states, countries, or organizations;
- Pay the $186 application fee.
Within 15 days after the BON has received all of these materials, they will issue a one-time 120-day temporary license. With this, you can practice while you wait for the BON to issue your permanent RN license.
The Nurse Licensure Compact
Texas is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, a partnership of more than 30 states allowing nurses to practice and work in multiple states without additional licensure. With a Texas license, you can freely practice in other compact states. However, if you move from Texas to another compact state or vice versa, you may still need to apply for a new permanent license in your primary state of residence.
RN License Renewal
In Texas, you have to renew your license once every two years. When your license expires depends upon the month and year in which you were born. If you were born in an even-numbered year, your license will always expire in the month of your birth in even-numbered years. If you were born in an odd-numbered year, your license will always expire in the month of your birth in odd-numbered years. If, for instance, you were born in April of 1989, your RN license would have expired in April 2019, and will again in April 2021.
You can renew your license online using the Online Renewal Application. You’ll have to put in your license number and update any relevant information (such as your contact information) and pay the $68 renewal fee. If you renew your license late, there is an additional $60 late fee.
However, there are certain circumstances that can prevent you from renewing your license online:
- Defaulting on a Texas Guaranteed Student Loan;
- Not meeting the continuing education requirements or being selected for a continuing education audit;
- Being selected for a background check that hasn’t been completed;
- Having an inactive or delinquent license.
If any of the above is true, you can still renew your license, but you will have to complete the Timely License Renewal Form and submit it to the BON. If you have an inactive or retired license, you need to complete the License Reactivation Form, and if your license is delinquent, you should complete the Delinquent License Renewal Form. If you are unsure which form to complete, are dealing with any extenuating circumstances, or have additional questions about renewing your license, it’s best to contact the BON directly.
Continuing Education Requirements
The state of Texas does have continuing education requirements for nurses. Registered nurses must complete 20 contact hours of continuing education in their area of practice every two years (or within a single licensing period). Alternatively, RNs can receive or maintain a professional certification in their practice area, so long as it is from a BON-approved organization or program.
Some of the organizations already approved by the BON include:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC);
- Licensed Vocational Nurses Association of Texas (LVNAT);
- National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (NALPN);
- National Association for Practical Nurse Education and Service (NAPNES);
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing;
- National League for Nursing (NLN);
- Texas League for Nursing.
The BON notes that “any course/ offering/ activity/ program that offers Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) contact hours and is in the nurse’s area of practice can be used for licensure renewal so long as it is approved by a credentialing agency or provider recognized by the Board.” Although continuing education is loosely defined, there are certain activities that do not count toward the requirement, per Board Rule 216.6. No matter what type of continuing education you choose to pursue, take a moment to make sure it will actually fulfill the BON’s requirement.
Texas Nursing License Verification
The Texas Board of Nursing offers a free RN Licensure Verification tool on their website that allows you to confirm someone’s nursing credentials. You can search for a license using someone’s license number or first and last name. They also have license search tools for advanced practice registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, temporary permits, and graduate nursing students.