Alabama ranks fourth among U.S. states for the highest concentration of nurse practitioner (NP) jobs, with the Florence-Muscle Shoals metropolitan area listed among the top ten. The NP occupation ranks 16th among the fastest-growing careers in the state. In addition, the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers the fifth most affordable family nurse practitioner (FNP) online programs in the country.
A nationwide shortage of primary care physicians has affected Alabama, particularly in rural areas and among the state's obese and aging populations. NPs can help fill the gap in primary healthcare. Although an Alabama NP cannot practice independently and must work in collaboration with a physician, advocacy organizations have made progress to give NPs more autonomy.
This page can help you decide if becoming an NP fits with your educational and career goals, along with the best nurse practitioner programs in Alabama, which specialty to choose, and how to become licensed.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Based in Alabama
NP programs in Alabama typically encompass two years for a master of science in nursing (MSN) and 3-4 years for a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). A DNP should carry more value, as some professional organizations have approved a nationwide switch to requiring DNPs for nationwide licensure. Alabama currently requires only an MSN for NP licensing.
Usually, students earn a bachelor of science (BSN) or MSN degree before entering DNP programs, but some schools offer BSN-to-DNP bridge programs. Alabama course delivery options range from on-campus to hybrid to fully online, but students must complete clinical hours in person.
Admission to an MSN program generally requires a BSN from an accredited college or university, a 2.75 GPA, and a registered nurse (RN) license. DNP programs require at least two years of work experience, either as an RN for BSN degree-holders or an advanced practice nurse (APN) for those with an MSN.
MSN programs train students in patient care in their chosen specialty areas, including adult-gerontology, family practice, neonatal, psychiatric/mental health, and women's health.
MSN programs train students in patient care in their chosen specialty areas, including adult-gerontology, family practice, neonatal, psychiatric/mental health, and women's health. DNP programs prepare graduates for high-level specialty practice and healthcare leadership.
An MSN student should expect to complete 600 hours of clinical work providing supervised direct patient care, while DNP students must log 1,000 additional hours.
The information provided here consists of typical admission criteria for NP programs in Alabama, so students should research individual programs carefully.
Complete List of Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in Alabama
Alabama Nurse Practitioner Career Information
As illustrated in the table below, Alabama falls short of the national averages for salary and job growth. Compared to its southern neighbors, Alabama NPs earn less money but outpace Mississippi and Louisiana for projected job growth.
Alabama offers benefits for students and practitioners. In a recent study, Alabama ranked eighth among U.S. states for its percentage of affordable colleges and universities and 12th for its number of affordable institutions. The state also ranked 11th in the 2020 cost of living index, which includes expenses for groceries, housing, utilities, and transportation. In addition, the unemployment rate for bachelor's degree graduates or higher sits below 3%.
Nurse Practitioner Salary and Projected Job Growth in Alabama and Nearby States
Alabama NPs become licensed as APNs through the Alabama Board of Nursing under the certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) license category. The state recognizes specialty areas, including adult-gerontology, family practice, neonatal care, psychiatric/mental health, and women's health.
The board requires the following for licensure:
Active RN license
Official academic transcript(s) evidencing an MSN or higher
National certification in a specialty area recognized by the state nursing board from a national certifying agency approved by the board
Initial application and $175 fee
Practice documents for each collaboration an NP enters into
APN licensing renewal also requires RN license renewal. Both licenses renew every two years with a $175 fee. Applicants must log 24 contact hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle, six hours of which must cover pharmacology topics. NPs must also maintain current certification in their practice specialty. APN and RN licenses typically share a renewal date, unless an NP's national certification expires earlier than the RN license. The lapsed license fee, imposed when a licensee does not renew in time, totals an additional $150.
Other Requirements for Alabama Nurse Practitioners
License applicants must obtain their specialty certifications from a nursing board-approved national certifying organization, such as:
Certification involves taking the appropriate examinations for an applicant's specialty area. Likewise, NPs should complete their continuing education hours from a board-approved provider, such as NetCE, or another organization accredited by the ANCC.
Alabama requires each NP to collaborate with a physician for every specialty area they practice. For initial licensing, the board requires applicants to submit practice documents, including a standard protocol and quality management plan. The collaborating physicians must submit a commencement for collaborative practice form, along with a $200 fee.
To prescribe medications, NPs must apply for a qualified Alabama controlled substances certificate.
Under the agreement, physicians collaborating with NPs with less than two years of clinical experience must maintain a physical presence at the worksite during 10% of the NP's scheduled hours. Physicians collaborating with NPs who have practiced for two years or more must meet with NPs quarterly and visit remote sites twice a year.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Alabama joined the nursing licensure compact (NLC), under which nurses can apply for a single license to practice in compact member states. The NLC only applies to RN licenses in Alabama, as the state has not yet joined the APRN compact. NPs from other states follow the same initial application procedures as in-state RNs to earn their APN licenses.
Practice and prescriptive authority vary widely by state. Alabama falls within the reduced practice category due to its collaborative practice requirements. Some states allow full practice similar or equal to a primary care physician's scope of practice, while others follow a restricted practice model in which NPs must practice under supervision, delegation, or team management by a healthcare provider organization.
Resources for Alabama Nurse Practitioners
Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama Representing ANPs and NP students, this alliance keeps its members informed about governmental, legal, and workplace issues; offers opportunities for continuing education and networking; and supports the profession through advocacy.
Alabama State Nurses Association This association counts nurses at all levels among its membership and offers leadership and service opportunities on committees and task forces. Members can become elected officers, mentors, and watchdogs for issues relevant to Alabama nurses.
Alabama Board of Nursing As the state's licensure agency, the board's website features step-by-step instructions for becoming licensed, numerous FAQs on collaborative practice and other topics, links to forms, and continuing education resources.
Alabama Health Action Coalition This coalition supports nurses and students by analyzing workforce data, developing plans to improve Alabama healthcare, establishing an initiative to promote diversity in healthcare, and providing health summits. Students can find resources for connecting with mentors online.