Best Nursing Schools in Alabama: Top Online & Campus Programs for 2022

Explore online and traditional programs from the best nursing schools in Alabama, plus learn about nursing degree options, licensing requirements, and earnings potential in the state.

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Written By

Michael Hoffman

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A former practicing attorney, Michael Hoffman has years of experience as a freelance journalist specializing in the research and writing of higher education content – from online learning to financial aid, and everything in between. Michael is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael practiced for several years as a civil litigator in Los Angeles and worked in Santa Monica, California as a development executive for a major film producer.

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The long-term demand for nurses in the U.S. is strong with steeply-rising salaries and hefty signing bonuses becoming the norm. Whether you want to become an RN or are already licensed and want to move into a more advanced nursing role in Alabama, the state has many excellent nursing schools offering dozens of quality degree and certificate programs.

This guide is designed to help you find the right program to meet your professional nursing goals. It explores the many quality, fully-accredited nursing schools in Alabama to help you find a traditional or online nursing program that works for you. In addition to information on nursing degree and certificate options, this guide also discusses how to obtain the licensure you need to work in the state and what you can expect to earn as a working nurse in Alabama.

2022’s Best Nursing Schools in Alabama

To get you started on your program search, we’ve spotlighted three of the very best nursing schools in Alabama. We’ve chosen these schools based on several important factors, including academic quality, variety of degree and certificate offerings, curriculum comprehensiveness, study flexibility and convenience, faculty reputation, and availability of useful support services. Keep reading to find out which nursing programs in Alabama stand out for 2022.

University of Alabama

The highly-respected Capstone College of Nursing, located on the University of Alabama’s flagship campus in Tuscaloosa, is the first choice for many Alabama students seeking a quality public school nursing education. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program provides students with four semesters of lower-division coursework designed to prepare them to become professional nurses followed by five semesters of upper-division courses that make up the advanced professional component of the course of study.

Current RNs who have previously completed all required lower-division coursework can opt for the entirely online RN to BSN program. Graduate-level nursing programs include Nurse Practitioner MSN, Nurse Administrator MSN, DNP, Doctor of Education (EdD) for Nurse Educators, and Joint Nursing PhD with Faculty Research Interest. Post-Graduate NP Certificates with Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) concentrations are also available. Along with the RN to BSN program, UA offers several online nursing degree and certificate options, including fully-online RN to BSN/MSN, MSN with Nurse Administrator Concentration, Psychiatric Mental Health NP Certificate, and DNP programs.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a range of excellent and affordable nursing degree and certificate programs. Four undergrad options are available, starting with the Prelicensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing Pathway, a traditional four-year program consisting of both professional and academic nursing courses that lead to eligibility to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. The 30-credit-hour RN to BSN Pathway is offered in three-, four-, and five-semester plans to provide maximum study flexibility for working nurses. The RN to MSN program allows current RNs with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing majors a time- and cost-efficient way to obtain their nursing master’s.

Of particular note is UAB’s unique Joint Enrollment Pathway in which students enroll in both an associate in nursing degree program at either Wallace State Community College or Jefferson State Community College and UAB’s RN to BSN Pathway program to earn their ASN and BSN degrees simultaneously. Graduate-level nursing programs are also available at UAB, including a variety of MSN degree, post-MSN specialty, post-graduate APRN certificate, and DNP options.

University of Mobile

The School of Nursing at the University of Mobile, a private, Baptist-affiliated school located just outside of Mobile, offers a substantial number of degree and certificate programs for prospective and current nursing professionals. Undergraduate options include both a traditional BSN (four-year, full-time) and an RN to BSN. An accelerated BSN program for students with either non-nursing bachelor’s degrees or at least 63 previously-earned college credits and who are interested in earning their nursing bachelor’s and becoming RNs is also offered.

Graduate programs include Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education, and Nursing Executive Leadership MSNs, a Post-Master’s APRN Certificate, two DNP options (Post-Master’s and BSN to DNP-FNP), and a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP). Most UM nursing programs combine primarily online coursework with one or more on-campus intensive sessions attended throughout the course of study. Tuition rates when including typical financial aid awards are surprisingly affordable in comparison to similar programs at other Alabama nursing schools, both public and private.

3 Common Qualities of the Best Nursing Programs in Alabama

The best nursing schools in Alabama all offer a range of degree and certificate programs that meet the academic and professional goals of their students. While each takes its own unique approach, there are several qualities common to all top Alabama nursing programs. Here’s a look at three of the most important.

  • Accredited and State Approved Accreditation is the process through which schools and their academic programs are vetted to ensure they meet important standards of quality. Proper accreditation is an absolute must for any nursing programs in Alabama you consider. The two major accrediting bodies for nursing schools and degree programs in the U.S. are the Accreditation Commission for Education and Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). You can check program accreditation status using these ACEN and CCNE search engines. State approval is another essential qualification for any nursing program. State approval of nursing programs in Alabama is administered by the Alabama Board of Nursing.
  • High NCLEX Pass Rates If you’re intending to become a licensed RN, the nursing program you choose must prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exam. An important factor to consider, then, is a program’s NCLEX pass rate. Check the most current pass rate figures for nursing programs in Alabama on the ABN’s approved program webpage.
  • Quality Support Services Excellent student support services are also a must when choosing a nursing program. These include academic and career counseling, tutoring services, financial aid and funding assistance, mentorship programs, employment counseling, and job search assistance.

Types of Nursing Programs Available in Alabama

The number of undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees and certificates available in Alabama is substantial. The following descriptions for the most common types of undergraduate and graduate nursing programs available in Alabama, along with examples of each, can help you choose the right path for your career goals.

Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Alabama

ADN Programs

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) program provides the coursework and clinical training needed to qualify to take the NCLEX-RN. ADN programs are typically offered by vocational schools and community colleges in Alabama. Earning an ADN degree usually requires two years of full-time study.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

Traditional BSN Programs

A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, prepares students with little or no college or nursing experience to become RNs and provides the general education coursework needed to earn a bachelor’s degree. Traditional BSN programs typically require four years of full-time study and are offered by almost all college and university nursing schools.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

Accelerated BSN Programs

Accelerated (or Second Degree) Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs offer the fastest route to obtaining a BSN for students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees by allowing them to apply general education credits from their previous bachelor’s programs. Accelerated BSN programs are also available from most four-year college and university nursing schools and lead to eligibility to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Completion times vary from 15 months to two years.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

Nursing Bridge Programs in Alabama for Current Nurses

LPN to RN and LPN to BSN Programs

LPN to RN programs are designed to provide time- and cost-efficient pathways for current LPNs to advance their careers by becoming RNs. These programs typically take two forms: LPN to nursing associate degrees (usually three semesters) or LPN to BSN degrees (three to four years).

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to BSN Programs

RN to BSN programs award credits for a student’s RN license as well as apply credit hours earned in the student’s nursing diploma or associate degree program. This cuts down substantially on the number of additional credits needed to earn a BSN degree. RN to BSN programs normally require one year of full-time or two years of part-time study. Many nursing schools in Alabama offer their RN to BSN programs 100% online.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

RN to MSN Programs

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is for students interested in launching or advancing their nursing careers into advanced nursing practice, teaching, or other leadership roles. One of the most popular pathways is the RN to MSN designed for current RNs without a BSN. Completion times vary from 30 to 36 months for full-time students to four years or more for part-time students. Admission often requires current RN licensure and an ADN. RN to MSN programs may be fully campus based, partially online, or fully online with clinical hour requirements in person. Some programs also award a BSN degree.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with this Program

Advanced Nursing Programs in Alabama

MSN Programs

Nursing master’s degree seekers with RN licenses and bachelor’s degrees can opt for a traditional MSN program. The standard MSN pathway is open to students with a nursing BSN while the direct-entry MSN pathway is for those whose bachelor’s degrees are in non-nursing majors. Graduates of direct-entry MSN programs are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam leading to RN licensure. Degree completion times are 18 months to four years.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with This Program

DNP and PhD Doctoral Programs

A DNP is designed for students interested in top-tier leadership positions in advanced nursing practice and healthcare administration. DNP programs are typically offered with specialized courses of study. The PhD in Nursing is for students seeking careers in academics or research. Program lengths vary substantially, but most DNP students complete their degrees in three to four years while PhD in Nursing students typically take four to five and sometimes up to seven years.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with This Program

Post-Graduate Certificates

Post-graduate certificates in nursing provide MSN (and sometimes DNP or nursing PhD) degree-holders a time- and cost-efficient way to add a specialization and expand their professional nursing practices. Post-grad nursing certificates come in a range of specializations, including FNP, nurse anesthesia, nurse educator, etc. Completion times vary depending mostly on the chosen area of specialization.

Examples of Alabama Nursing Schools with This Program

Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Alabama

Distance learning is no longer a novelty when it comes to nursing degrees and certificate programs, and that includes those from nursing schools in Alabama. Online course components like lectures, reading assignments, quizzes, and even some labs have become quite common. There are also plenty of schools with full nursing degree and certificate programs that can be accessed and completed entirely online. Below are spotlights of three nursing schools in Alabama with notable online degree and certificate offerings, including one or more programs with coursework available 100% online. We’ve also included answers to a few of the most common questions regarding online study for nursing programs in Alabama.

Best Online Nursing Programs in Alabama

University of South Alabama

An early proponent of distance nursing education, the University of South Alabama now offers one of the most substantial slates of online nursing degrees and certificates found in the state or anywhere else. Included are a fully-online RN to BSN and a primarily online RN to MSN for RNs with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing majors. Graduate-level students choose from among 14 MSN, 14 DNP, and 15 Post-graduate certificates, all featuring fully- or partially-online didactic coursework. All MSN and DNP students can also add one of six certificate subspecialty fields to their programs. South Alabama also participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) that allows it to offer its fully-online nursing courses to residents of any NC-SARA participating state. NC-SARA participation also allows for student placements (internships, field experiences, clinical placements) in other participating states. All South Alabama online nursing students are paired with mentors or preceptors at their approved clinical sites. Students also have the option of completing their clinicals at a USA Health-affiliated clinical facility or hospital.

University of Alabama at Huntsville

The University of Alabama at Huntsville offers quality nursing degree and certificate programs, including four that feature online study. Prospective students with current RN licenses and ADNs or nursing diplomas can complete all requirements for the RN to BSN degree program 100% online. This 26-credit hour program is for working nurses and completable in as few as 12 months. It’s notably affordable with current total tuition as low as $12,200. Online graduate-level nursing options include a fully-online MSN in Nursing Administration program that can also be completed in as few as 12 months. There’s also a 40-credit, 32-month DNP program and a Graduate Certificate in Nursing Education that prepares current nurses with MSN degrees to teach in a variety of clinical and classroom settings.

Troy University

Troy University, a public institution located in southeast Alabama, offers nine nursing credential programs that all feature 100% online coursework. Troy’s RN Mobility (RN to BSN) program provides current RNs the opportunity to earn BSN degrees in as few as two semesters of full-time study. A four-semester part-time option is also available. Admission requirements include an associate degree or diploma from a CCNE-, ACEN-, or CNEA-accredited nursing program, prior completion of all required general education coursework, and at least one year in an RN leadership role. Students can, with program approval, select their own preceptorship locations. Graduate nursing options at Troy include MSN programs in Family Nurse Practitioner and Healthcare Informatics and Nursing Leadership. There are also the post-BSN and post-MSN DNP programs, each with FNP and Nurse Leader specialization tracks. Certificate-only options are also available in FNP, Healthcare Informatics and Nursing Leadership, and Post-MSN nursing education.

FAQs About Online Nursing Programs in Alabama

Can I earn my nursing degree in Alabama completely online?

Whether or not you’ll be able to earn your degree entirely online depends on the specific degree program. Some nursing schools in Alabama offer degree and certificate programs where all requirements are completed 100% online. Other programs, particularly those with in-person clinical hour requirements, may feature fully-online didactic coursework.

Will my online Alabama nursing degree be considered less valuable by employers?

Given that most employers today are well versed in the common use and high quality of distance learning by nursing schools in Alabama, it’s highly unlikely they will think less of a job candidate with an online degree as long as the program is state-approved and properly accredited.

Are online nursing programs in Alabama more affordable than campus programs?

In regard to direct program costs like tuition and programs fees, probably not. Some schools actually charge an additional per-course or per-credit fee for online programs. Overall, though, many online students pay less than their on-campus counterparts after factoring in travel savings.

Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Alabama

Salary trends are extremely positive for nurses in Alabama and throughout the nation. Remember, however, that becoming a fully-licensed RN requires at least a diploma or associate degree from a fully-accredited university. And college at any level can be expensive.

Fortunately, financial aid resources can help you graduate nursing school with less or even no debt. These include nursing scholarships and grants, assistantships and fellowships, the GI Bill for active military and veterans, and employer tuition assistance. Most common of all are student loans, particularly those available from the federal government. The federal government is also a great source for nursing student loan repayment opportunities. Another great source for scholarships and loans for Alabama graduate nursing students is the Alabama Board of Nursing itself.

How to Become an RN in Alabama

Working as a registered nurse in the U.S. requires you to obtain an RN license through your state’s or jurisdiction’s Board of Nursing. Those seeking to work as RNs in Alabama apply for licensure through the Alabama Board of Nursing (ABN). Below are the steps to follow and requirements to meet in the Alabama RN licensing process. Familiarize yourself with these to avoid any unpleasant surprises when it comes time for you to apply for your license.

Step 1

Complete a state-approved and properly-accredited nursing degree or diploma program

Becoming an RN in Alabama requires that you pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Qualifying for the exam requires earning either a nursing diploma or degree through one of several types of nursing degree programs, including nursing associate (ADN, AASN, ASN), LPN to RN, traditional BSN, and accelerated BSN programs. Visit this ABN’s Nursing Education Programs website for a current list of state-approved Alabama and out-of-state pre-RN licensure nursing programs.

Step 2

Apply for your RN licensure with the ABN

You must complete the ABN electronic license application after graduating from your nursing program. The process includes providing your Social Security Number, proof of citizenship or non-citizen legal presence, and fingerprint card along with answering a series of regulatory questions and paying the application fee. You must also have your nursing school provide the ABN with a copy of your official nursing program transcript. If you answer “yes” to any of the regulatory questions, you’ll need to provide additional information and documentation to explain your answers. Applicants who provide all of the above documentation, answer “no” to all of the regulatory questions, and pay the additional fee may request a Temporary Permit that allows them to begin nursing employment in Alabama as a nursing program graduate.

Step 3

Sign up for and take the NCLEX-RN exam

You must register with Pearson VUE, the national testing service for the NCLEX-RN exam. This includes payment of the registration fee. Following registration, typically two to three weeks after registration and the determination that your ABN application is complete, you’ll receive authorization to test (ATT) from Pearson VUE. You’ll then schedule and take the exam at one of Person VUE’s testing locations. Visit this NCLEX website for detailed information on preparing for and taking the exam.

Step 4

Receive your RN license from the ABN

Once you’ve taken the NCLEX-RN exam, your results are automatically forwarded to the ABN. Results are mailed three to five days after taking the exam. You can also view your exam results online approximately 24 to 48 hours after the exam. Your Alabama RN license will be issued to you within 24 to 72 hours after you’ve passed.

Step 5

Keep your license current

Alabama RN licenses must be renewed online every two years between September 1 and December 31 of each even-numbered year regardless of when the license was first issued. License renewal requirements include completion of 24 continuing education hours every two years and payment of the renewal fee. Renewal fees and required CE hours are prorated for first-time renewals.

Job Outlook for RNs in Alabama

The job outlook for nurses across the nation is very positive. Of particular note is the strong estimated long-term job growth rate of 12.1%. The estimated job growth rate for Alabama RNs is slightly lower, but it is still higher than the 8% for all occupations in the U.S. generally and still includes 3,500 average annual openings and over 5,300 new jobs by 2028. This means that demand for licensed RNs in Alabama is strong and will remain that way for several years to come.

Employment Projections for RNs in Alabama

New Jobs
Job Growth Rate
Average Annual Openings
Alabama 5,380 10.2% 3,500
United States 371,500 12.1% 210,400

Source: Projections Central

Nursing Salaries in Alabama: How Much You Could Make as an RN

The chart below provides the most current BLS earnings data for RNs throughout the U.S. and Alabama statewide as well as for several Alabama metropolitan areas. Alabama RN salaries run somewhat lower than those for the U.S. as a whole, which isn’t surprising given that the cost of living in the state also runs lower than for the nation overall. Along with geographic location, your actual salary as a working Alabama RN also depends on a combination of several factors, including your specific job title and responsibilities, employer, and level of professional nursing experience.

Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Alabama

10th Percentile Median Earnings 90th Percentile
Alabama $43,150 $58,630 $80,420
United States $53,410 $75,330 $116,230
Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL $44,120 $60,560 $80,790
Auburn-Opelika, AL $45,390 $60,000 $77,450
Birmingham-Hoover, AL $44,590 $60,760 $82,480
Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, AL $46,820 $59,740 $76,810
Decatur, AL $40,240 $48,720 $65,140
Dothan, AL $42,660 $56,520 $75,260
Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL $38,800 $51,340 $72,310
Gadsden, AL $31,420 $58,280 $79,980
Huntsville, AL $42,010 $57,780 $78,700
Mobile, AL $42,440 $57,410 $76,530
Montgomery, AL $44,530 $62,200 $88,450
Tuscaloosa, AL $43,040 $58,200 $80,240

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020

Alabama Nursing Resources

Alabama Association of Nursing Students (AANS)

The AANS is a non-profit organization with over 60,000 members supporting the academic interests and professional goals of pre-nursing, diploma, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and graduate-level students enrolled in nursing schools in Alabama.

Alabama Organization for Nursing Leadership (AlaONL)

The AlaONL is a professional organization of Alabama RN leaders and aspiring leaders who design, facilitate, and manage patient care. Associate membership is available to students enrolled in degree programs with a career path in nursing or healthcare administration.

Alabama State Nurses Association (ASNA)

The ASNA is committed to advocating for the rights and interests of RNs throughout the state through legislative initiatives, providing continuing education classes, sponsoring professional events for its members, and more.

Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama (NPAA)

The NPAA is a non-profit professional organization representing the interests of Alabama’s advanced practice nurse community and its patients as well as students enrolled in advanced nurse practitioner education programs throughout the state.

Scholarships and Resources for Nursing Students

This EduMed guide provides information and tips on locating, applying for, and landing nursing scholarships and grants. It also includes links to a range of helpful online academic and professional resources for nurses and nursing students.