Nurse practitioner programs offer advanced clinical training and educational instruction at the master's or doctoral level. Nurse practitioners (NPs) focus on health promotion and education, disease prevention, and wellness counseling. They guide patients in making appropriate, timely, and smarter health decisions that improve their overall well-being.
After completing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), students often need another 2-4 years to become an NP. Many colleges and universities require NP applicants to have a BSN and a valid and unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license. However, some schools allow associate-trained RNs to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN), which is the base educational requirement for NPs. RN-to-MSN programs can take 4-6 years to complete.
In terms of nurse practitioner salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reports that NPs earned a 2019 median salary of $115,800, which is almost three times as much as the annual median salary for other workers ($39,810). The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 45% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average projected growth rate for jobs in other sectors (4%).
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In addition to higher potential salaries and robust job growth, NPs often enjoy several career opportunities after graduating from an accredited NP program. NPs can work in various fields, including psychiatric mental health, oncology, gerontology, and neonatal nursing. NPs can also specialize in several subfields, including pulmonology, endocrinology, allergy and immunology, and occupational health.
Several states grant NPs greater practice autonomy than RNs. They can perform many duties typically ascribed to doctors, including ordering and interpreting tests and lab results, diagnosing and treating various acute and chronic medical conditions, and educating patients on disease prevention.
Some states give NPs prescriptive authority and allow them to practice without a medical doctor's supervision. NPs undergo extensive training and instruction, which makes them reliable and knowledgeable authorities in healthcare delivery and patient care.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
Each state maintains specific requirements for nurse practitioner certification. However, most states require practitioners to complete at least an MSN. An NP program's comprehensive curriculum helps NPs develop the advanced knowledge and skills they need to deliver expert healthcare.
NPs are valuable members of a medical team. They make significant contributions in terms of treatment options, diagnosis, ongoing care, and patient recovery. A well-crafted NP curriculum prepares graduates to deliver expert medical care in their field of expertise. In addition, leadership roles and senior positions, especially in medical and surgical hospitals, often require medical practitioners to hold an advanced degree.
Schools offer graduate certificate programs in several nursing fields. Requiring much less time to complete than an MSN and offering a focused field of study, graduate nursing certificates present holders as highly trained specialists. Schools often apply certificate credits toward an MSN in a related field, thereby allowing certificate-holders a foothold in an advanced nursing program.
Accreditation for a Nurse Practitioner Degree
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process in the United States.
Nonprofit, degree-centered institutions typically seek regional accreditation, while career-focused, for-profit trade or sectarian schools seek national accreditation. Regional accrediting agencies often adhere to stricter quality standards than national accreditors. For this reason, many see regional accreditation as the more prestigious designation. However, ED and CHEA recognize both accreditation types.
Some accrediting agencies concentrate on specific programs instead of entire schools. ED and CHEA recognize two main accreditors in the nursing field: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Accreditation matters, especially for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid to help pay for their degree. ED channels financial aid only through accredited institutions.
Admission requirements for RN-to-MSN NP programs include an associate degree in nursing from an accredited school, a valid RN license, and at least one year of clinical experience. Direct-entry MSN NP programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing discipline, show completion of prerequisite coursework, and often provide GRE results.
BSN-to-MSN programs also require an RN license and at least one year of professional experience. All NP programs require applicants to show a strong academic record, with many requiring at least a 3.0 GPA. MSN NP graduation requirements vary among schools. Many programs require the completion of a capstone project or thesis.
20 Best Campus Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021
Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) that accepts applications from licensed nurses holding a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or master of science in nursing (MSN). The DNP does not require applicants to submit GRE scores.
The 74-credit BSN-to-DNP pathway offers a nurse practitioner (NP) specialization. Students earn the MSN and DNP upon graduation. MSN-to-DNP enrollees complete 12 core coursework credits in science development, study design, and statistics; evidence-based practice; population health in a global society; and transition to advanced nursing practice.
MSN students can choose from 11 NP concentrations, including nursing and healthcare leadership, women's health, and nursing informatics. DNP candidates can complete the final project required to earn the degree at their place of employment.
Duke also offers a DNP pathway for nurses with a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing. Ph.D. in nursing degree-holders need an MSN in an advanced practice registered nurse direct care or indirect care specialization.
Duke's DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Purdue University-Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN
Purdue's graduate nursing degrees include four master of science in nursing (MSN) nurse practitioner (NP) programs, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing.
Students accepted to the MSN program can choose from four NP specializations: family health, pediatrics, adult/gerontology, and psychiatric/mental health. MSN applicants need an active registered nurse (RN) license and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a 3.0 GPA or higher. They must also complete an upper-division statistics course with a minimum grade of 3.0. Full-time MSN candidates usually graduate within two years of initial enrollment, which includes one summer term.
The DNP accepts applications from RNs with a BSN or an MSN. The MSN-to-DNP requires enrollees to complete 38 or 53 credits, depending on a candidate's advanced practice registered nurse status. Full-time doctoral students can complete the Ph.D. in nursing within three years. Purdue's MSN programs follow a blended delivery format. However, doctoral programs occur mostly on campus.
Purdue's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Johns Hopkins offers graduate nursing programs at the master's and doctoral levels. Learners with a four-year non-nursing degree can apply to the entry into nursing program, which leads to a master of science in nursing (MSN). Students can enroll in the program to gain clinical experience in an advanced practice nursing role, or to build on the degree and continue on to doctoral studies.
MSN applicants who prefer to focus on nursing administration can pursue a healthcare organizational leadership track or enroll in a dual program that pairs an MSN with a master of business administration (MBA).
Applicants with a bachelor of science in nursing can apply directly to the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, which offers concentrations in clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner (NP) arenas. NP specialization areas include family health primary care, adult-gerontology critical care, and pediatrics. The university offers the DNP as a standalone degree or as part of a dual-degree program with an MBA or a master of public health. Students who want to pursue a research-focused doctoral degree can apply to the doctor of philosophy in nursing program.
The nursing programs at Johns Hopkins are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Emory's graduate nursing programs include master's and doctoral degrees and several areas of advanced practice nursing concentrations. The accelerated master of science in nursing (AMSN) accepts applications from graduates of a non-nursing bachelor's program and leads to an initial registered nurse (RN) license. The 60-credit program includes at least 675 clinical hours.
Graduates of an accredited bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program can apply to the MSN program that consists of 48 credits and requires 780 clinical hours. Concentration areas include women's health, neonatal nursing, family health, and pediatrics. Qualified students can pursue a dual degree that pairs an MSN with a master's in bioethics or public health.
The doctor of nursing practice offers concentrations in health systems leadership, population health, and nurse anesthesia. Emory also offers a doctor of philosophy in nursing through the Laney Graduate School.
Emory's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
NYU offers several graduate nursing programs through the Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The master of science in nursing (MSN) program prepares graduates for advanced practice clinical roles as nurse practitioners (NPs) and nurse midwives. Students can pursue a non-clinical concentration in nursing administration, education, or informatics.
Learners pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can apply to the BSN/MSN program that allows them to earn the two degrees faster than it would take to earn each one separately. Applicants must demonstrate excellent academic abilities with a minimum 3.5 GPA.
NYU offers three types of doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs. The BSN-to-DNP program accepts applications from bachelor's-trained registered nurses. NPs and certified nurse-midwives (CNWs) can apply to the advanced standing DNP. The post-master's DNP welcomes applications from MSN degree-holders who are neither NPs or CNWs, including nurse administrators, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse educators. Doctoral candidates can pursue a doctor of philosophy in nursing.
NYU's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Chestnut Hill, MA
BC offers graduate nursing programs at the master's and doctoral levels. The master of science in nursing (MSN) accepts applications from associate- and bachelor's-trained registered nurses (RNs). Students who have completed all prerequisite coursework at the start of the program can earn the 56-credit MSN in 18 months.
The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) offers four pathways and two concentration areas. The direct-entry DNP is for applicants with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The post-bachelor's and post-master's DNP programs accept bachelor of science in nursing and MSN (respectively) degree-holders. Associate-trained RNs can apply to the RN-to-DNP program. DNP enrollees can choose a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthesia concentration.
BC also offers a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing for nurse scientists. Full-time Ph.D. students receive full funding for three years to cover tuition, fees, and insurance. Ph.D. candidates must complete the program within eight years of their initial enrollment.
BC's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
George Washington University
GW offers three graduate nursing programs: a master of science in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing. Students accepted to the MSN program can choose from advanced nurse practitioner (NP) roles in adult-gerontology acute and primary care, family health, and psychiatric mental health. The program also offers a concentration in nurse leadership and management and in nurse midwifery.
The DNP accepts applications from bachelor's- and master's-trained registered nurses. The post-bachelor's DNP offers the same NP concentration areas as the MSN. The post-master's DNP offers concentrations in executive leadership, nursing practice, and health policy.
Ph.D. students conduct clinical and educational research with a focus on health equity. The program consists of 57 credits. GW provides funding for the first two years of Ph.D. enrollment, which includes full tuition and a stipend.
GW's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Villanova offers graduate nursing programs at the master's and doctoral levels. Students admitted to the master of science in nursing (MSN) program can choose from three nurse practitioner tracks: adult gerontology, family health, and pediatrics. Learners can also choose an MSN with a nursing education track.
Villanova offers the post-bachelor's nurse anesthesia doctor of nursing practice (DNP) as a joint program with the Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing with a 3.0 GPA or higher and a valid registered nurse license. Applicants must also complete prerequisite coursework and have at least one year of experience as a professional nurse within five years of applying to the program.
The school's 46-credit doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing prepares students for academic careers. The length of time needed to complete the Ph.D. depends on enrollees' educational backgrounds at the start of the program.
Villanova's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of California-Irvine
UCI's graduate nursing programs include a master's entry program in nursing (MEPN) for graduates holding a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The MEPN follows a cohort model of education, comprises 87 quarter credits, and offers a concentration in community and population health nursing. Enrollees complete the program within two years.
UCI also offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) without a concentration and a DNP with a concentration in family health. Both programs follow a hybrid delivery format. Students can complete either program in two years.
The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing is a full-time on-campus program that includes scholarly research on a variety of healthcare approaches integral to building healthy communities and promoting population health. The program focuses on six key areas, including health services and practice, digital technology and health, and health disparities and diversity. UCI provides funding for Ph.D. students for up to four years.
UCI's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
James Madison University
Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, JMU offers graduate nursing programs at the master's and doctoral levels. The doctor of nursing practice runs fully online.
The master of science in nursing (MSN) includes three nurse practitioner (NP) concentrations: family health, adult gerontology primary care, and psychiatric mental health. The program also offers concentrations in nursing leadership roles: nurse administrator, clinical nurse leader, and nurse midwifery.
The university offers the MSN concentrations in nurse midwifery and in psychiatric mental health as joint programs with Shenandoah University. Students graduate with an MSN from JMU and a postgraduate certificate from Shenandoah University.
The MSN program gives priority to applicants with a bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution and a valid registered nurse (RN) license. The university considers applications from associate-trained RNs and learners with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field on a case-by-case basis. Applicants admitted to the MSN program under these credentials may need to complete up to 11 additional credits.
JMU's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Texas A & M University-College Station
College Station, TX
Texas A&M's 48-credit master of science in nursing (MSN) program offers a nurse practitioner (NP) concentration in family health. Full-time enrollees typically earn the MSN after six semesters, or two years. Although students can complete several required courses online, the program requires a significant amount of on-campus presence.
Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing and a valid registered nurse (RN) license. The MSN curriculum includes coursework in advanced pathophysiology, primary care of families, quality improvement and health informatics, and diagnostics and procedures. Several courses include built-in clinical or practicum hours.
After completing the program, graduates can sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The MSN also fulfills the educational requirement for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Exam for licensure as an advanced practice nurse.
Texas A&M's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Yale offers graduate programs in nursing at the master's and doctoral levels. The graduate entry prespecialty in nursing (GEPN) leads to a master of science in nursing (MSN) for enrollees without a nursing background. GEPN students start the program by enrolling in prerequisite classes and completing clinical requirements. After the initial year, students receive a certificate in nursing and proceed to MSN coursework.
The MSN program offers eight nurse practitioner specialties, including adult gerontology primary and acute care, women's health, pediatrics, and psychiatric mental health. The program also offers a track in global health for MSN students who plan to practice their nursing specialty in the global health arena.
On the doctoral level, Yale offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing. DNP candidates can focus on healthcare leadership, systems, and policy, or clinical practice. The Ph.D. focuses on clinical research and prepares graduates for careers in nursing science. Ph.D. candidates receive up to four years of financial assistance that includes tuition, fees, insurance, and a stipend.
Yale's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
U-M's graduate nursing programs welcome applications from students seeking a master's or doctoral degree. Students admitted to the master of science in nursing (MSN) programs can pursue a clinical or a leadership focus. The clinically focused MSN offers several nurse practitioner concentrations, including pediatric acute and primary care, family health, nurse midwifery, and adult gerontology acute and primary care. The leadership-focused MSN offers a concentration in leadership, analytics, and innovation.
The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) accepts registered nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an MSN. Enrollees can complete the BSN-to-DNP within 3-4 years. MSN-to-DNP students usually graduate from the program after three years. The post-master's DNP runs primarily online with limited campus visits. The BSN-to-DNP program follows a hybrid delivery format.
Full-time enrollees can complete the 42-credit doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing program in three years. The Ph.D. follows a cohort model of education.
U-M's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Mount Carmel College of Nursing
A private Catholic college in Columbus, Ohio, MCCN began offering bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees in 1988. Today, MCCN offers a master of science in nursing (MSN) in addition to the BSN.
Applicants need a BSN with an undergraduate 3.0 GPA or higher. They must also complete prerequisite statistics and research courses with no grade lower than a C. The program gives priority to applicants with at least one year of professional clinical experience. MCCN offers all core MSN classes on campus and online.
MSN enrollees can choose from three tracks: adult gerontology acute care, family health, and nursing leadership. The nurse practitioner concentrations each require 48 credits, while the nursing leadership concentration requires 33 credits. All MSN programs include clinical hours. The adult gerontology track requires 650 clinical hours, while the family health and nursing leadership tracks require 500 and 150 hours, respectively.
MCCN's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Located in Seattle, UW offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) with concentrations in advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) and advanced systems and population health (ASPH). The program includes several APRN specialties, including women's health, adult gerontology, pediatrics, and psychiatric mental health. UW allows DNP enrollees to earn the degree with a concentration in public health nursing and global health concurrently with a master's in public health.
The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing science accepts applications from bachelor's degree-holders in any field. A highly individualized program, the Ph.D. program does not require a nursing license for students who do not plan to enroll in clinical courses. Ph.D. candidates who enroll in classes with clinical components need a valid nursing license. Students work closely with a faculty advisor to formulate a study plan that supports their professional and academic objectives. The Ph.D. program follows a cohort model of education.
UW's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The master of science in nursing (MSN) at Lewis includes four nurse practitioner specializations: adult gerontology primary care, family health, psychiatric mental health, and adult gerontology acute care. The MSN program also offers specializations in school nursing, healthcare systems leadership, and nursing education. Students can pursue the last two specializations online. Lewis offers a dual-degree program that combines an MSN with a master of business administration.
Applicants need a valid registered nurse license and must show a 3.0 GPA or higher in their most recent academic program. The MSN program requires enrollees to complete statistics and research coursework with a grade of B or higher. The core MSN curriculum includes courses in applied biostatistics for advanced nursing practice; healthcare organizations, systems, and policy; population health; and healthcare informatics.
MSN candidates who are also members of the Illinois Organization for Nurse Leaders receive 15% off the regular tuition rate. Lewis alumni admitted to the MSN program receive a 20% tuition discount.
Lewis' nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
UB's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) accepts applicants holding a current registered nurse (RN) license with either a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a master of science in nursing (MSN). Master's-trained applicants enroll in an online DNP program. RNs with a BSN enroll in the hybrid BSN-to-DNP program. Applicants must show a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, have at least one year of professional nursing experience, and submit GRE or MAT scores.
The BSN-to-DNP program offers four advanced nursing practice specialties: adult gerontology, anesthesia, family, and psychiatric mental health. Students can enroll full time or part time. However, enrollees in the nurse anesthesia specialty must enroll full time. Most students graduate within 3-5 years.
UB offers an Early Assurance DNP program for motivated BSN students. Applicants must be enrolled in their final semester of a BSN program, have a 3.5 GPA or higher, and possess at least 100 undergraduate credits at the time of application. The Early Assurance DNP follows a cohort model of education and begins each fall semester.
UB's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of Connecticut
UConn began offering graduate nursing programs in 1971. The master of science in nursing (MSN) offers specializations in adult-gerontology acute and primary care and in neonatal and family health. The MSN programs prepare graduates to take the national certification exam in their focus area. Courses follow a hybrid delivery system. MSN applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution and at least two years of professional nursing experience.
The university also offers a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing that welcomes applications from BSN- and MSN-trained nurses. The post-MSN Ph.D. comprises 52 credits. Full-time enrollees can complete the program in six full semesters and one summer term. The BSN-to-Ph.D. program consists of 72 credits and can take full-time students up to eight full semesters to complete. Ph.D. candidates can also enroll part time. BSN-trained Ph.D. applicants must first complete 9-12 master's-level credits prior to enrolling in doctoral classes.
UConn's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
UArizona's graduate nursing degrees include master's and doctoral programs that prepare licensed nurses for advanced clinical nursing practice and scholarly research and leadership.
At the master's level, UArizona offers a master of science for entry to the profession of nursing (MEPN), a program specifically developed for graduates of an accredited undergraduate non-nursing program. The MEPN prepares students to sit for the NCLEX-RN and awards a master of science in nursing (MSN) upon completion. Applicants must show a 3.0 or higher GPA and completion of all prerequisite courses with a grade of C or higher. The 56-credit MSN program includes courses in pathophysiology across the lifespan, nursing pharmacology, and population and community health nursing.
UArizona also offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) with several specializations, including adult-gerontology acute care, nurse anesthesia, pediatric nurse practitioner, and executive health systems leadership. The DNP follows a hybrid delivery system.
UArizona's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
UI offers campus graduate nursing programs at the doctoral level. The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) accepts applications from licensed nurses with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. DNP candidates can select from several specialization areas, including adult/gerontology acute and primary care, nurse anesthesia, family health, and psychiatric/mental health. The post-bachelor's DNP follows a hybrid delivery system, while the post-master's DNP runs online.
The university also offers a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing. Applicants with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) complete 72-74 credits to earn the degree. Applicants with a master of science in nursing (MSN) complete 57-59 credits. Ph.D. candidates follow a prescribed order of core coursework that depends on whether they begin the program with a BSN or MSN. All full-time Ph.D. candidates receive tuition remission and a nine-month stipend for the first three years of enrollment.
UI's nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Courses in a Nurse Practitioner Program
NP programs include content and methodology courses that prepare graduates for evidence-based nursing practice in several specialty areas. Accredited programs also provide an excellent educational foundation for graduates who plan to continue to a doctoral program after graduation.
Each school follows a curriculum that supports its academic goals for students. Along with foundation coursework, NP programs typically offer classes in specialty areas such as psychiatric-mental health, family nursing, and gerontology acute care. Many schools offer the courses below as part of a comprehensive NP program.
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Students learn how to conduct health assessment interviews to elicit information that can aid in diagnosis and treatment. They learn how to collect, organize, and analyze personal, lifestyle, and medical data. Enrollees examine evidence-based tools and resources commonly used in completing assessments and general nursing practice. During the course's clinical component, learners examine patients of all ages in a variety of healthcare environments, including hospitals, community health centers, and hospices.
- Essentials of Nursing Practice
- This course emphasizes current best practices in professional nursing connected to patient care, safety procedures, health and wellness education, and nutrition. Using data gathered from patients' health assessments, students develop treatment plans that address patients' specific needs and health issues. Enrollees learn how to engage patients in their health journey, collaborate with colleagues on diagnosis and treatment options, and develop a holistic intervention plan focused on health recovery and maintenance.
- Global and Public Health
- This course covers topics such as environmental health, public health issues, and the influence of culture on health behaviors. Students explore various factors that impact the health of populations and communities across a region. Degree-seekers learn how to interpret epidemiological data, analyze public health policies, and apply relevant research findings to improve delivery of and access to quality healthcare services across populations.
- Nursing and Health Policy
- Enrollees study different federal legislative and regulatory agencies that affect current nursing practice as well as the quality and delivery of healthcare services. Students explore how factors such as financing, health policies and regulations, and societal and political forces influence the nursing profession and nurse education. They also study nurses' roles in shaping healthcare policies.
- Learners study various abnormal changes and deviations in body functions that cause, arise from, or occur with diseases. This course presents human pathogenesis from different perspectives, including at the cellular, histologic, and systemic levels. Students focus on different types of pathophysiology and explore the influence of environment and human behavior on health maintenance, promotion, and restoration.
Certifications and Licensure for Nurse Practitioners
States require NPs to meet licensure requirements as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). A state nursing board typically oversees the licensing process. There is no national test similar to the NCLEX-RN for APRNs. Instead, state boards require NP certification as one of the criteria for APRN licensure. Nursing associations, such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, administer NP certification programs.
Family Nurse Practitioner Certification
This entry-level, competency-based exam tests examinees' clinical knowledge in individual and family care across the lifespan. Questions cover several FNP knowledge areas, including biopsychosocial principles, differential diagnosis, patient and family education and counseling, and diagnostic and therapeutic tests and procedures.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board, this credential requires at least an MSN and a valid RN license. Applicants must also demonstrate clinical experience in women's health, including providing reproductive care, assisting in infant delivery and newborn care, and managing sexually transmitted diseases.
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Certification
Applicants must complete an accredited MSN degree with a concentration in adult-gerontology acute care, which includes young adults, older individuals, and the elderly. Examinees also need a valid RN license and professional experience delivering healthcare services to adult-gerontologic patients experiencing chronic or terminal illness.
Professional Organizations for Nurse Practitioners
NPs can explore multiple professional organizations that cater to their specific field of expertise and practice. Many groups welcome student members and experienced NPs, which engenders mentorship and professional networking opportunities. Members can often access online career centers, digital libraries, and education and career development resources.
American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners
AAENP maintains an active online community forum that allows members to collaborate and network. Student members gain access to information regarding financial assistance, continuing education courses, and fellowship programs.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners
AANP membership includes access to several online peer-reviewed journals, newsletters, and publications containing the latest news, research findings, and developments in the NP field. The organization also offers resources such as free continuing education units and scholarships and grants for research projects and further education. AANP provides several onsite and online opportunities for networking, mentorship, and collaboration.
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
This organization offers several services and resources, including continuing education courses, advocacy opportunities, certification guides, and financial aid programs. NAPNAP publishes journals, books, policy papers, and other communication to keep members current on trends and emerging concerns in the pediatric nursing field.
Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health
Members gain access to an interactive journal on women's health and active links to various resources to aid in research and practice. The organization also offers certification review materials and several continuing education courses and activities. Students receive weekly digital newsletters with policy and regulation updates, industry news, and pharmaceutical developments.
Colleges and universities with NP programs usually offer students some type of financial assistance in the form of grants, scholarships, or teaching/research fellowships. In addition, several professional nursing organizations also encourage members to pursue further education in the field by offering financial assistance programs. See below for five scholarship opportunities for aspiring NPs.
Who Can Apply: AANP accepts applications from members in good standing pursuing an MSN at an accredited institution. Doctor of nursing practice and Ph.D. nursing students can also apply. Applicants need a valid RN license and must show completion of at least one semester of graduate-level coursework.
Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in a program focused on maternal-child nursing can apply for this scholarship. Applicants need a valid RN license and at least one more term in their program in the year the scholarship is awarded. Applicants must be a member of a professional nursing association related to women's health, such as the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Who Can Apply: NAHN offers several scholarships for students of Hispanic descent pursuing an accredited nursing program at any level. Applicants must be pursuing a degree full time and be NAHN members in good standing for at least six months prior to applying. Scholarships are available for male nursing students, graduate students from underrepresented ethnic groups, and nurse educators, among others.
Who Can Apply: Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), this scholarship accepts applications from full-time students pursuing a nursing degree at the diploma, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral level. Recipients must complete a service commitment at a Critical Shortage Facility upon completing the program. HRSA requires scholars to render one year of service for every year they receive financial aid.
Amount: Full tuition, fees, and other education costs, plus a monthly stipend
Who Can Apply: NPHF welcomes applications from NP students and practicing clinicians. Award categories and scholarship opportunities vary since NPHF applies to several organizations for funding. Scholarship applicants must demonstrate financial need and attend an accredited NP program. Clinicians can apply for awards to fund a work-related project or a community-based activity relevant to nursing practice.
How long does it take to become an NP?
With a BSN, it can take another 2-4 years to become an NP. Associate-trained RNs can complete an NP program in 4-6 years.
What is the difference between an NP and a physician assistant (PA)?
NPs provide patient-centered care, while PAs often focus on treating diseases. As a rule, PAs enjoy greater autonomy and many maintain an independent practice. Most states still require RNs to practice under a medical doctor's supervision.
Do you have to be an RN to become an NP?
No. Accelerated NP programs for individuals with a bachelor's in a non-nursing field and BSN-to-MSN NP degrees can bypass the need to work as an RN before qualifying for NP positions.
Can you be an NP without a BSN?
Yes. Individuals with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field and associate-trained RNs can apply to MSN NP programs. The average completion times are 36 months and 24 months, respectively.
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