Nurse Practitioner (NP) Schools & Graduate Programs
What is a Nurse Practitioner Program?
A Nurse Practitioner program is a course of study that helps nurses expand their skills. You’ll build on past knowledge and learn to apply science to new nursing functions.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) study in one or more patient population or niche areas. These include:
- Pediatric (acute or primary)
- Adult-geriatric (acute or primary)
- Women’s health
- Psychiatric/mental health
Most NP graduate programs blend theory with practice. And, they help prepare future nurse practitioners to deliver patient-focused care.
What Can You Do With a Master of Science in Nursing?
Earning a Master of Science in Nursing could help you pursue an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) career path. APRNs include Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Anesthetists, and Nurse Midwives.
APRN roles are projected to grow 31% by 2026. That’s much faster than the healthcare industry as a whole, which should grow 18% in the same timeframe.
There are a few reasons the APRN occupation is booming. For one, these professionals can perform some of the same services as doctors. So, they may be needed to provide both preventive and primary care. Plus, aging Baby Boomers increasingly need medical services, leading to potential demand for health professionals.
Of all the APRN roles, Nurse Practitioner jobs should increase the most. It’s predicted that 56,100 NP jobs will be added by 2026, for a total of 211,600.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners need to earn at least Master’s degree from an accredited program. Some choose to pursue a PhD or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program, instead. NPs must also have a registered nursing (RN) license.
NPs provide advanced nursing services, as well as primary and specialty care. Depending on the state, they may also be able to prescribe medications and order laboratory tests. So, they need clinical experience and knowledge of advanced topics, like pharmacology.
Plus, NPs must achieve certification. Along with the above requirements, this calls for passing a national certification exam. Check with your state’s nursing board for more information on pursuing an NP career path.(Source: www.bls.org)
The majority of Nurse Practitioners work in physicians’ offices or hospitals. Some work in other kinds of healthcare facilities and educational institutions. And, some NPs even treat patients in their homes.
Popular Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs
Nurse Practitioner degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of health professions and related programs.
In the most recent update of the data (2009/10), 4,017 Family Practice Nurse degrees were awarded to U.S. graduate students. The majority (97%!) were at the Master’s level.
Master of Science in Nursing vs. Doctor of Nursing Practice
A Master of Science in Nursing program usually focuses on enhancing clinical skills. Students take advanced nursing courses in areas like pharmacology and physiology. They often choose a specialization, like Primary Care or Family Nurse Practitioner.
A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program may cover similar areas. But, these programs tend to feature much more research and academic writing. DNP candidates could also dive into topics not usually included in an MSN program. These include biostatistics, epidemiology, and leadership.
Finally, DNP programs require a bigger time commitment. Some DNP candidates enter the program with a Bachelor’s degree, while others enter having already earned an MSN degree. Either way, expect to devote more total years to earning your DNP.
So, what do these programs have in common? For one, they both require students to complete clinical experience, though the number of hours may vary. And, both could help current RNs prepare for advanced practice nursing career paths – like Nurse Practitioner.
What Are the Requirements to Enroll in a Nurse Practitioner Program?
To pursue a Nurse Practitioner program at the Master’s level, you should have a registered nursing (RN) license and a background in science. Many programs require a Bachelor’s in Nursing. Some programs also specify a certain amount of recent clinical practice.
Don’t have a BSN? You may be able to pursue a bridge program. These are designed for RNs who hold an Associate’s degree or nursing diploma. As the name suggests, they bridge the gap between your prior education and what a Bachelor’s degree covers. Then, you’ll pursue Master’s-level coursework.
Requirements may be different for Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD programs. Some doctoral programs let you enter with either a BSN or an MSN. You may also have to complete prerequisite courses, like statistics.
Other requirements for both Master’s and doctorate programs may include:
- Minimum GPA
- GRE scores
- Letters of recommendation from faculty or employers
- A personal statement about your interests and goals in nursing
- An interview
Choosing an Accredited Nurse Practitioner Program
Graduating from an accredited Nurse Practitioner program is required to become a certified NP. Accreditation helps ensure your program meets industry standards for nursing. Organizations that accredit nursing programs, including NP programs, are:
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). CCNE accredits bachelor’s, graduate, and residency programs in nursing. That includes post-graduate APRN certificate programs and DNP programs. To become accredited, programs must meet a set of standards, including effective educational practices and continuous improvement.
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). ACEN accredits all kinds of nursing programs. These include clinical doctorate programs, Master’s, and post-Master’s programs, among others. Accredited programs must meet or exceed educational quality standards.
How Long Are Nurse Practitioner Programs?
An online Nurse Practitioner program at the Master’s level may range from 35 to 50 credits. Program length depends on whether you are entering with a BSN or another credential. And, it matters whether you are studying full time or part time. In general, it takes one to three years to earn an MSN.
An online DNP program may take around two to five years. Again, it depends on your previous education. Students entering with a BSN may need to complete 64 to 94 credits to earn the DNP. Those entering with an MSN may only need to complete 31 to 40 credits. (Sources: https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/rn-nursing-masters-degree, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/nursing-doctorate-degree)
How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Program Cost?
The average cost of earning a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. Of course, you’ll find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
Take a look at graduate tuition costs for these four institutions with NP programs. We compared them to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options. All tuition costs were reported by NCES.
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written by Shannon Fandler
Schools with Nurse Practitioner Graduate Programs
GradSchools.com offers 88 Nurse Practitioner Graduate Programs
Grand Canyon University
Purdue University Global
Sacred Heart University
Seton Hall University
Youngstown State University