Becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) in Texas certainly requires dedication and hard work. However, with the right combination of those things as well as a bit of research into how to approach the path, it can be an extremely rewarding way for a registered nurse (RN) to earn more independence and advance professionally.
Texas has a number of accredited online programs that allow aspiring nurse practitioners to continue their nursing careers while also taking NP classes. In fact, there are multiple programs within the state, including those offered by Texas A&M University and University of Texas El Paso, that allow students to take courses primarily or totally online, with minimal or no visits to campus. This means it’s easy to work in any part of the state and only make the trek to school once or twice year at most. This type of flexibility means that even if you think you don’t have the time to advance your nursing career, you just might be able to do it.
Read on to learn more about universities in the state of Texas that offer online nurse practitioner programs, including details about their accreditation, areas of NP specialization, campus visitation requirements and more. In the process, find out more about the specifics of becoming a nurse practitioner in Texas, and all the requirements you must fulfill in order to earn your NP board certification from the Texas Board of Nursing (BON).
Becoming a nurse practitioner means following an established path (or one of several established paths) and meeting certain milestones along the way. While steps may take more or less time to complete, depending on a number of factors such as whether a nurse enrolls full-time or part-time in an NP program, we provide the estimated duration of each step to indicate how long it typically takes to complete. It’s common for a working nurse to attend an online NP program part-time, and in fact many programs are designed specifically to accommodate part-time students. That said, a part-time student will often take longer than a full-time student to complete an educational program, a fact that is reflected in the corresponding time ranges provided.
It is important to note that students arrive at the decision to become nurse practitioners at different points in their professional careers, and with differing levels of education. Nurse practitioner programs accommodate this. For instance, an RN with only an associate degree in nursing (ADN) may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) concurrently with a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) program. In fact, there are specific programs designed for this, known as RN-to-MSN or ADN-to-MSN bridge nurse practitioner programs (UT Health has a new online RN to FNP program designed for ADN-prepared registered nurses). All things considered, the process of becoming a nurse practitioner in Texas typically takes a high school graduate between 6 and 8 years, less for working RNs with an ADN or BSN degree, and significantly less for a working advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with MSN degrees looking to specialize further by pursuing a post-master’s NP certificate, or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.
STEP 1: Obtain An Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)
Upon graduating from high school, prospective nurses of any type must pursue further education in nursing in the form of an ADN or BSN degree. The ADN degree will typically take a high school graduate 2 years to complete full-time, while the BSN will take 4 years of full-time schooling. Residents of Texas should be sure to attend an undergraduate nursing program that has been approved by the Texas Board of Nursing (BON). A full list of approved programs is available from the Texas BON website.
STEP 2: Obtain RN License (duration: less than 1 year)
After completing an approved undergraduate program, it is time to apply for a Registered Nurse license in Texas. This process, also governed by the Texas BON, requires submitting proof of an approved degree along with sitting for a national licensing exam.
STEP 3 (for ADN-prepared nurses only): Obtain Bachelor’s Degree (duration: 2+ years)
Registered nurses who hold an ADN degree must earn a BSN degree, or find an ADN-to-NP bridge program that includes bachelor’s-level education on the way to earning a graduate degree. As mentioned, there are no ADN-to-NP bridge programs offered online by universities in the state of Texas, so the online options for ADN-prepared nurses would be to earn a BSN online prior to enrolling in a graduate NP program, or to find an ADN-to-NP program offered online by an out-of-state university. For an ADN-prepared nurse, earning a BSN could take two years, full-time.
STEP 4: Pursue Graduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)
Nurse practitioners must have, at minimum, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Depending on whether students attend classes full time, this degree could take two or more years for a BSN-prepared RN to complete. Higher degrees, such as Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), take even longer. It is also at this stage that a nurse in Texas must choose what he or she wants to specialize in as a nurse practitioner so that they can pursue that academic and clinical experience. Nurse practitioner licenses in Texas are awarded in the following categories:
As with undergraduate programs, advanced nursing programs, which are referred to officially as “post-basic advanced educational programs” must be recognized by the Texas BON. If the program is not in Texas, it must be accredited by a national body that is recognized by the Texas BON.
STEP 5: Obtain APRN License (duration: 30 Business Days)
After successfully completing a graduate degree program, nurses can pursue licensing as a nurse practitioner from the Texas BON, which like other nursing boards classifies the NP as a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
The exact application process from school to school will vary. However, there are some commonalities to be found among the available online NP programs in Texas.
For online programs, it stands to reason that the application is available online and can be completed without resorting to a printer and mailbox. Many online programs accept applications for both Spring and Fall admission with due dates falling, in general, around August and February, respectively.
Included in the application, in addition to basic personal information and academic history, is usually a personal statement, letters of reference, and proof of an RN license in good standing.
About half of the online NP programs in Texas, namely those sponsored by the University of Texas Health Center, have a minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement of 3.0 for previous academic work. None of the programs require graduate standardized testing (meaning the Graduate Record Examinations, or GRE) in order to apply.
There also tends to be a nominal fee, around $50, for processing each submitted application. The fee is not returned if a student is not accepted to the program.
The Texas Board of Nursing maintains a list of approved graduate programs for Texas nurse practitioners that applies to online as well as classroom-based programs. Schools outside of Texas must have programs approved by a national body that is recognized by the Texas BON, specifically the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Nurses attending programs that are not properly accredited may not be able to apply for NP licensing in Texas.
Bruce Leonard, PhD, RN, FNP-C, NP-C is Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Center in Houston. Dr. Leonard has worked in nursing for more than 30 years and has conducted research into the application of Team-Based Learning into online learning formats such as the UT NP program.
Tara Hilliard, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC is an assistant professor and Director of the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Track at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. In 2014, she was named Best Distance Educator by the TTUHSC School of Nursing for her dedication to the online program.
Pamela Willson, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CNE, FAANP is a Clinical Professor at Texas State University as part of St. David’s School of Nursing. Dr. Willson has taught APRNs for 25 years, directed FNP programs, and incorporated interprofessional telemedicine into the curriculum, making her particularly well suited to teaching online courses.
Several Texas universities offer online nurse practitioner programs that require little to no face to face contact. Note that there are other universities outside the state of Texas that accept online students from Texas, but the universities listed below are the only ones based in Texas offering online nurse practitioner programs.
Angelo State University, located in San Angelo and part of the Texas Tech system, offers both an online master of science in nursing and a post-master’s certificate with a family nurse practitioner track. Each of these programs includes classes on health policy and ethics, informatics and health care, and pharmacotherapeutics, among a number of others.
Students at ASU have access to myriad resources to help prepare them for a successful career. For example, the school houses a cutting-edge high-fidelity simulation lab, where students can develop their skills as a nurse. In addition, ASU has contracts with a number of local clinical agencies, including Baptist Memorial Center, River Crest Hospital, Shannon Health System, and Shannon Clinic, along with other locations where students can work in a clinical environment.
At Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, registered nurses who hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) may pursue a family nurse practitioner MSN degree 100 percent online, allowing them to remain in their home communities in order to live and work.
The Texas A&M system is widely considered one of the best in the area, and its nursing programs are no exception. The university's MSN degrees were ranked among the top 100 in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2018, and the online nursing programs were ranked among the top 4 in the state of Texas.
Texas Tech University in Lubbock provides students with the opportunity to pursue an online MSN degree or a post-master’s certificate with a nurse practitioner specialization. Numerous specializations are available to students in the programs, including nurse midwifery, adult-gerontology acute care, family care, pediatric acute care or primary care, and psychiatric-mental health.
Texas Tech is a highly regarded institution, both in Texas and throughout the country, and the nursing school enjoys the same reputation. U.S. News & World Report ranked the MSN and DNP programs among the top 75 programs in the nation in its 2018 standings.
The University of Texas - El Paso (UTEP) offers both MSN and post-master's certificate programs with nurse practitioner tracks. The available NP specializations are:
The nurse practitioner programs at UTEP are specifically designed for working professionals, offering a flexible, part-time schedule for the first 3-4 semesters in addition to minimal time on campus.
The school of nursing at UTEP is proud to offer to support to many incoming students. For example, in the fiscal year 2014-2015, $477,459 in scholarships were awarded to nursing students.
At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, students have the opportunity to pursue an online post-master’s NP certificate in psychiatric mental health. This program includes 21 credit hours of courses including clinical therapeutics, theoretical diagnostics, and diagnosis and management across the lifespan, among others.
Although it was only founded in 2013, already the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has garnered a reputation as one of the top universities in the state. Indeed, the school was ranked among the top 300 schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Furthermore, the Nursing Schools Almanac ranked the nursing program 27th out of 50 choices nationwide.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UT Health) offers four hybrid online/onsite nurse practitioner programs at both the MSN and Post-Master's Certificate level:
The programs require regular visits to the Houston campus, in some cases only for clinical evaluations and experiences, in other cases for entire campus-based courses.
The university has announced a new online RN to FNP program for the fall semester, 2018. The program bills itself as an online program, unlike the aforementioned NP programs, which are hybrid programs that require significant campus visitation. The RN to FNP program is designed for ADN-prepared registered nurses who wish to become family nurse practitioners.
The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) School of Nursing offers four hybrid nurse practitioner programs at the MSN level:
The programs require regular visits to the Galveston campus for clinical evaluations and experiences. The programs are accredited by the CCNE. Each program includes extensive clinical training. For instance, the AGPCNP program includes 700 hours of clinical experience as part of its curriculum, in addition to required courses like Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, and Informatics.
Dr. Yolanda R. Davila, PhD, RN is a professor at UTMB. She teaches a number of courses in her position as the Odelia Brown McCarley Professor of Nursing, including in the graduate nursing programs, including Innovations in Community Health Practice, which is a nurse practitioner course she developed.
Cheryl Juneau, DrPH, RN, FNP-BC has earned the the Jesse and Alicia Dunn Endowed Professorship in Nursing and works with graduated nursing students at UTMB. She has twice been presented with the Faculty of the Year award.
Students who are looking for an online nurse practitioner program in Texas may rightfully be concerned about the number of campus visits required throughout the course of the program. After all, it's quite easy to live in Texas and still be quite far from any given university's campus. Unfortunately, campus visitation requirements vary greatly among programs and even from year to year, which means they are not always easy to pinpoint. In the table below you will see the best available assessment of how many campus visits each program requires over the duration of the program. In cases where a university's campus visitation language is non-specific, but there is a general classification of a program as "online", NursePractitionerSchools.com staff will use the language "limited" to describe required campus visits.
All NP programs require a certain amount the completion of practice hours, in the form of a preceptorship where a student NP works under the tutelage of an experienced one. In Texas, nurses applying for their APRN license as a nurse practitioner must have completed a minimum of 400 hours of clinical work within the previous 24 calendar months. Those hours must have occurred in the advanced practice role and in the population area (e.g., pediatrics, women’s health, etc.) where the NP plans to practice. This requirement, however, only applies to those nurses who have not completed an approved APRN educational program within the previous 24 months. The Texas BON requirements for graduate APRN programs includes a provision for preceptorship, although the specifics may vary among programs.
Nurse practitioners in Texas are considered to have a “restricted” scope by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. This means that some level of physician supervision and collaboration is required for nurse practitioners to work legally. It is only through a written agreement with these collaborating physicians that nurse practitioners in Texas are able to gain prescriptive authority.