How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Pursuing a Career as a Nurse Practitioner

Here's how to become a Nurse Practitioner in 6 simple steps:

  1. Pursue a career as a Registered Nurse (RN).

    Ultimately, you could jumpstart your career as an RN by earning an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), or a vocational certificate in nursing. However, if you’re committed to pursuing a career as a Nurse Practitioner, it might make sense to begin by earning a BSN since may need one to apply to a graduate nursing program. No matter what degree or certificate you choose to earn, you should consider doing so from an accredited institution. You may also need to pass a standardized national examination and obtain state certification to practice.ii

  2. Earn a bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

    To apply to a graduate program in nursing, you may need to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) or another approved degree from an accredited institution. If you already have an ADN or certificate in nursing and are working as an RN, you might be eligible to complete a shorter program that gives you credit for prior nursing experience. These are typically called RN-BSN “bridge” programs and take two to three years to complete. You could also attend a direct-enrty MSN program

  3. Gain nursing experience.

    Consider taking time to gain experience in the field of nursing. Gaining experience in the field prior to engaging in advanced studies could help you identify an area of interest for concentrated study and prepare you for challenging clinical practicum that is inevitably a part of the graduate-school experience. Plus, some places of employment offer tuition assistance for nurses to complete their graduate work, to those who qualify. Gaining employment prior to going to graduate school could potentially make school more affordable. Not to mention it may strengthen your MSN application.

  4. Earn a graduate degree in Nursing.

    Jumpstarting a career as a Nurse Practitioner begins the moment you attend your first graduate-level class. The majority of Nurse Practitioners in the field of nursing have a master’s degree (MSN), and they concentrate in one or more areas of care.iii Some examples of concentration include family, pediatric, neonatal, acute, oncological, psychiatric, and geriatric nursing. Pursuing a career as a Nurse Practitioner may require two to three years of fulltime study, and some programs have scheduling options for nurses who wish to continue working while they pursue their degree. Additionally, not all NP programs require students to have BSNs—some accept students with degrees and experience in closely related fields. Every MSN program is different, so follow up directly with programs for details.

  5. Pursue state and/or national nursing licensure and certification.

    All Nurse Practitioners must earn certification from the state in which they want to practice. In most cases, the licensing agency requires the NP applicant to have an MSN in Nursing degree  from an accredited institution recognized by the licensing agency. In addition, most applicants must pass a national certification examination.iii

  6. Pursue further specialization and training.

    As mentioned above, when nurses pursue careers as Nurse Practitioners, they often concentrate in a particular area through their graduate-level studies. Even after graduate school, however, Nurse Practitioners may continue to focus their practices and educate themselves through continuing education. They might gain more concentrated, in-depth educationtheir a particular area. Or they might broaden their knowledge by studying new components of nursing related to their own initial concentration. In either case, NP certificates may be available, providing a shorter, more concentrated type of graduate education.

References: [i] | [ii] | [iii]

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