How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

How long it takes to become a nurse practitioner depends on the chosen discipline, education level, and nursing degree.

Registered nurses with a BSN require two to four years of further education to become nurse practitioners in most disciplines.

On the other hand, students with no prior nursing education require six to nine years of schooling to become NPs.

There are four primary registered nursing degrees/education levels for nursing students.

It includes the ADN, BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees.

Each nursing degree requires approximately two years of full-time education to complete.

Aspiring NPs must pass prerequisite courses before nursing school, which takes six months to two years to complete.

They must also complete clinical training to obtain their Licensure.

A nurse practitioner is an APRN with a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

As a result, students require a minimum of six years to obtain their MSN and practice as nurse practitioners.

In addition, the length of a nurse practitioner’s education varies depending on the healthcare domain they pursue.

Due to the complex topics and educational requirements, longer disciplines may require an extra year to complete.

Nurse Practitioner Overview

Nurse practitioners provide necessary medical care to a wide variety of patients.

Their expertise allows them to diagnose conditions, develop treatments, and prescribe medication.

Some nurse practitioners act as primary care providers and independently operate clinics and NP offices.

Nurse practitioners have a wide range of healthcare responsibilities.

As a result, it takes years of training/education to specialize in a particular domain and provide advanced medical care.

As previously mentioned, the time to become a nurse practitioner varies from two to nine years.

It takes even longer for part-time students who pursue an MSN or DNP degree.

With that said, accelerated programs help students complete schooling faster.

Bridge programs also help students transition into an NP program more efficiently.

The Path to Becoming an NP

There are numerous steps nurses must take to become nurse practitioners.

It includes obtaining a GED/diploma, satisfying prerequisite courses, finishing nursing school, and passing the NCLEX-RN.

Aspiring NPs must also gain experience, select a career path, complete postgraduate education, and obtain NP licensure.

Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner:

  1. Obtain a GED/diploma
  2. Satisfy prerequisite courses
  3. Earn a BSN
  4. Pass the NCLEX-RN/obtain Licensure
  5. Gain work experience
  6. Select a discipline/postgraduate education
  7. Obtain NP licensure

The following steps provide a brief overview of what students must go through on their journey.

Students must complete these steps to get into NP school and obtain a nurse practitioner license.

1. Obtain a GED or Diploma

The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to obtain a GED or diploma.

These certificates are necessary to apply to college and join a nursing program.

After obtaining a GED/diploma, students must apply to a college or university.

You can apply to a college with an existing nursing program if you want a direct path into nursing school.

You can also take nursing school prerequisites at one school and credits to a school with a nursing program.

However, you must ensure the other school accepts credit transfers from the primary school.

2. Complete Nursing School Prerequisites

Once you’ve joined college, you’ll need to take nursing school prerequisites and maintain a certain GPA average.

Nursing school prerequisite requirements vary depending on the nursing program.

However, most students require six months to two years to complete the prerequisites, depending on their prior education.

Consult the school guidance counselor to determine what courses you need to apply for the nursing program.

Once you’ve completed the school prerequisites, you can apply for the nursing program.

3. Earn a BSN Degree

To become a nurse practitioner, you must earn a BSN or bachelor of science in nursing.

A BSN is generally necessary to apply for the nurse practitioner program because it provides a foundation for postgraduate education.

The average time it takes to earn a BSN degree is approximately four years.

Nevertheless, those participating in an accelerated program may complete their degree in about three years.

Some nurses earn an ADN or BSN and spend several years as registered nurses before studying to become nurse practitioners.

However, you must satisfy no work requirements before pursuing an NP program except those made by the university.

Some registered nurses who have acquired their ADN degree enter an ADN to MSN bridge program.

It allows students to become nurse probationers more efficiently by bridging the education gap and building on prior schooling.

4. Obtain RN Licensure

After completing the nursing program, students must take the NCLEX-RN exam.

It tests students’ nursing knowledge and preparedness for entering the nursing profession.

As a result, it’s a necessary exam to obtain their nursing license.

The NCLEX-RN exam’s qualifications and licensing processes may vary depending on the state.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand the licensing requirements to ensure a smooth process.

Once students pass the NCLEX-RN exam, pay their licensing fees, and do a background check, they become licensed RNs.

5. Gain Work Experience

Most nurses applying to an NP program do not need to spend years working as registered nurses to enter the program.

However, it’s highly beneficial to gain work experience and learn which field is most suitable.

In addition, some universities do require prior work experience to apply for the NP program within specific domains.

It ensures the students are dedicated to their profession and increases the odds of succeeding in the NP program.

Nurse practitioners specialize in various domains.

It includes mental health, neonatal care, women’s health, pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, and other healthcare areas.

As a result, understanding what domain to specialize in before applying for a nurse practitioner program is vital.

6. Select a Nurse Practitioner Program

It would help if you settled on a particular domain once you prepared to enter a nurse practitioner program.

As previously mentioned, it includes mental health, family care, neonatal care, women’s health, pediatrics, and other disciplines.

Most nurse practitioner programs require two to four years of education to obtain an MSN or DNP degree.

However, many NPs obtain their MSN because it offers excellent education and faster entry into the nurse practitioner career.

Nurses who earn the DNP can apply for the highest level management and education positions within the nursing field.

These nurses become professors and provide high-level legal counsel to judges and attorneys.

7. Obtain Licensure as a Nurse Practitioner

Upon completing the program, candidates take a board certification examination to become certified nurse practitioners.

Depending on the state and certification process, it may take six to twelve months of clinical experience before applying for certification.

Walking the Long Road

Nurse practitioners spend years training and learning to provide the highest quality of care within the nursing field.

At first glance, many individuals may think of a nurse practitioner simply as a registered nurse with additional training.

However, their education and training allow them to provide high-level care in various medical situations.

As stated earlier, nurse practitioners perform many medical tasks beyond the scope of a traditional registered nurse.

Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat various conditions, prescribe medications, create therapies, open clinics, and act as primary healthcare providers.

Furthermore, their specialized training provides a comprehensive understanding of their specialization.

As a result, many nurse practitioners have exceptional expertise within their domain.

The path to becoming a nurse practitioner is long and complex.

However, it’s gratifying for the patients and the nurse practitioner caring for them.

For registered nurses with a BSN, acquiring an NP license may only take two years of additional education and some clinical experience.

As a result, it’s a fantastic option for nurses who want to pursue advanced roles or work independently.

Factors That Affect How Long it Takes to Become an NP

This section discusses the factors that impact how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner.

It includes the student’s prior education, career specialization, academic status, university length, and clinical hours.

Factors Affecting Academic Completion Length:

  • Prior education
  • Career specialization
  • Academic status
  • University length and clinical hours

Prior Education

A student’s previous education directly influences how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner.

For instance, the time needed to complete prerequisite courses varies from six months to two years, depending on prior education.

The time necessary to become a nurse practitioner also depends on the nursing student’s prior college/university degree.

Registered nurses with an ADN need one to two years of further education to earn a BSN and pursue postgraduate education.

Comparatively, students who’ve just entered nursing school require 36 to 48 months of education to earn their BSN.

There are also accelerated BSN programs for students with degrees in specializations outside of nursing.

These programs enable students with bachelor’s in different disciplines to earn a BSN more quickly.

For instance, those with a bachelor’s in education or psychology can join an accelerated program to change their discipline.

Accelerated programs can take twelve to nineteen months to complete allowing students to transition into nursing quickly.

Regardless, students with bachelor’s in different disciplines need to finish preliminary nursing school prerequisites to qualify.

Sometimes individuals will have complete numerous overlapping prerequisites while pursuing their bachelor’s degree.

As a result, they do not need to retake those specific courses to earn credit for the nursing school prereq requirements.

Career Specialization

The specialization a nursing student pursues in the nurse practitioner program directly impacts their education length.

Most universities require 1.5 to three years of schooling to obtain an MSN degree.

However, the nurse practitioner program length often varies based on the nursing student’s NP specialization.

Students may pursue women’s health, family care, gerontology, psychiatric mental health, pediatrics, or neonatal care degrees.

Each degree/discipline has specific educational and clinical hours requirements, which affect a student’s schooling length.

As a result, students typically spend 1.5 to 3 years in postgraduate education to become nurse practitioners with an MSN.

Academic Status (Full-time / Part-time)

Before entering nursing school, students must complete numerous prerequisite courses.

Students completing their nursing school prerequisites may attend college full-time or part-time.

Nevertheless, full-time/part-time status direct impacts the speed at which students complete prerequisites and earn credits.

Students who enroll in part-time schooling typically satisfy under 12 credits per semester or roughly three classes per semester.

Comparatively, full-time students complete 12 credits or more, equating to approximately four to five classes per semester.

Those who pursue schooling full-time generally enter nursing school more quickly than part-time students.

It can take twice as long to enter nursing school for those who pursue education part-time compared to full-time students.

Previous education also impacts how many courses students must complete before qualifying for nursing school.

University Study Length and Clinical Hours

Every university offering postgraduate NP degrees has specific academic requirements to become a nurse practitioner.

Some colleges/universities require aspiring nurse practitioners to obtain one year of direct care experience.

This directly impacts how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner since prior experience is required to enter the program.

Thus, universities that do not require prior work experience may enable students to become nurse practitioners sooner.

At a minimum, some postgraduate education universities allow students to earn an MSN in roughly 12 – 18 months.

Comparatively, lengthy nurse practitioner programs may take up to three years of schooling to complete to earn an MSN.

The institute’s hybrid of mandated academic courses and clinical hours directly influences schooling length.

In addition, the NP student’s chosen specialization significantly impacts how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner.

Some nurse practitioner specializations require less education and clinical practice to become proficient in the domain.

Other disciplines require further education, supplementary courses, and comprehensive clinical training to master the field.


Becoming a nurse practitioner is a lengthy process for students and registered nurses who want to enter this domain.

Depending on the discipline, it can take anywhere from six to nine years to become a nurse practitioner from start to finish.

Existing registered nurses with primary education and those with bachelor’s in other domains can become NPs more quickly.

However, they must complete comprehensive postgraduate schooling and satisfy the required clinical training.

Graduates must also obtain board certification to obtain licensure and become nurse practitioners.

Nevertheless, these healthcare specialists earn exceptional incomes and have a broad scope of practice within nursing.

They also have more freedom to make healthcare decisions that positively impact the patients and communities they serve.

Some nurse practitioners work at hospitals, emergency rooms, public health departments, nursing homes, or school districts.

It enables them to provide direct care, education, and support to patients, students, faculty, and employees.

Others become entrepreneurs and open independent practices or operate as managers or educators.

Nurse practitioners make large-scale decisions affecting communities, nursing staff, and university students in these careers.

Becoming a nurse practitioner is extremely rewarding but requires exceptional discipline, education, and passion.