Nurse Practitioner Programs & NP Schools

Nurse Practitioner programs are offered at both the masters and doctoral levels. Before pursuing an NP education students should explore both the specialties offered within ...

this area of health medicine as well as any prerequisites or requirements. It is also important to understand what certifications and licensees each path will lead you down. Nurse Practitioner specialties include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology NP
  • Womens Health NP
  • Mental Health NP
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner Programs & NP Schools

Why Pursue NP Education?

A RN cannot become an advanced practice registered nurse without additional education. As primary healthcare in our country changes, the need for nursing professionals and nurse practitioners is estimated to grow. the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this growth through 2024 will be 35%. That is a total of over 44k new nursing jobs over the next 10 years.

The goal of a NP is to serve the holistic health needs of the patient in the face of today's challenging primary care setting. A nurse practitioner promotes a comprehensive approach to health care by educating patients and their families on prevention and health management. As an APRN, a nurse practitioner's role may include:

  • Diagnosing and treating diseases
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Ordering and analyzing diagnostics studies
  • Prescribing medication and providing immunizations
  • Providing well visit care and counseling patients

With a NP degree, nurse practitioners can operate in private practice as a person’s primary care provider or under the supervision of a physician in clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, or college campuses. Looking at the specialties an NP may pursue, it is clear that a guiding tenant is not only the patient's medical issues but also the the effects of illness on the patient and his or her family. More and more people are looking to these nursing professionals as a source for primary care.

What are Nurse Practitioner Requirements?

Academic and admission requirements include:

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited US college or university (tip: there may be direct entry NP programs available. This means that your bachelors may come from any subject. Our Sponsored School Simmons College is an example.)
  • Some may require an active RN license
  • A personal statement and or a resume
  • Letters of recommendation (there may be specific requirements on who the recommendation comes from such as a recent instructor)
  • Transcripts and a GPA often higher than a 3.0 is desired
  • Some programs may also require GRE scores

Prerequisites for a student may also include science oriented classes such as microbiology, psychology, anatomy and physiology. Statistics is also commonly required. These prerequisites are often required to be completed within a certain time frame. For example, no later than 5 years prior to the start of the term up to directly before the term starts.

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurse Practitioner Graduate degrees can be focused in these main areas of health: adult (ANP); acute care (ACNP); gerontological (GNP); family nurse practitioner (FNP); pediatric (PNP); neonatal (NNP); and psychiatric - mental health (PMHNP).

The length and type of these nursing degrees will largely depend on what level of education a student has. For instance, are you looking for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to DNP program, or a Nurse Practitioner MSN vs. DNP? And do you already have a BSN? These answers will determine the length of your degree.

  • Direct entry Master of Science in Nursing programs will take the longest to complete as students may not have nursing experience. These programs generally take 3 to 4 years including the clinical hours. As part of the program students earn their RN licence and may be able to begin practicing as an RN while still completing the MSN program.
  • RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner programs are appropriate for a practicing RN who does not hold a BSN degree. This program may take up to 3 years, depending on part-time or full-time status.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing to MSN Nurse Practitioner programs or FNP programs will be fastest full degree programs to complete. They are generally between a one and a two-year commitment. Because the student already holds their BSN clinical hours and coursework required are shorter. 
  • The length of a Doctor of Nursing Practice program will depend on the degree path: BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP. The BSN to DNP may take up to 4 years, while the MSN to DNP may take an additional 2 years of education. Going beyond the basic MSN, these curriculum will prepare students to conduct practiced-based research, design policies to change health care and collaborate across disciplines to improve care for patients.
  • Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificates are available for students looking to move from a general MSN to a FNP and may take up to an additional 2 years of education.

Coursework to become a nurse practitioner

Many nurse practitioner programs can be completed on a part-time or full-time basis depending on what your schedule will allow. These MSN or DNP programs should prepare students to sit for the nurse practitioner certification exam. Important question to ask any school or university you are considering should be the first time pass rate of their program and whether or not they are certified by the CCNE or the AACN. 

Typically include coursework may be broken down into 3 subsections: Foundation courses, research courses and clinical courses.

  1. Foundation courses would include topics such as pharmacology, health care policy, informatics, ethics, nursing theory, advanced health assessment and improvement in health care
  2. Research courses would include topics such as scholarly inquiry, research methods and epidemiology,
  3. Clinical courses would include topics such as leadership in a clinical setting, primary care of individuals, clinical decision making and family theory of health and illness

If you are taking an online program, it is important to note that you may still be required to complete clinical hours as part of the practicum. These hours have to be completed in person at a health care service location.

Becoming A Certified Nurse Practitioner

Because nurse practitioners practice in a wide variety of disciplines there are a number of professional organizations that offer certifications. Two widely recognized are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

In order to qualify for the AANPCP certification, students must have completed a program accredited by a CCNE. The AANPCP offers certification in Family NP, Adult-Gerontology NP and Emergency NP. Once certified by the AANPCP the candidate can use the credential NP-C for a time limited period before hey must re certify. The ANCC offers a host of certifications from acute care to school NP. 

Obtaining certifications from these organizations indicates that as a nursing professional you have working and up to date knowledge in your field. Both organizations will allow a soon to be graduating student to begin the application process prior to graduation. After the initial cert is obtained, re-certification is required on a regular basis for both agencies.

Don't delay! With job opportunities so favorable, now may be a perfect time to enroll in an Advanced Practice Nursing degree!

Sources:[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm | onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1171.00