Becoming a nurse practitioner is a relatively lengthy process compared to other healthcare specializations.
These experts have the broadest scope of practice in nursing, enabling them to acquire high-level roles and occupations.
However, they must dedicate themselves heavily to developing their education, career experience, and training.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
There are numerous steps nurse practitioners must complete to obtain their license and begin practicing.
It includes earning a GED/diploma, completing prerequisites, entering nursing school, and acquiring work experience.
Aspiring nurse practitioners must also pick a discipline, finish postgraduate education, obtain a license, and find work.
The following section explores eight critical steps to becoming a nurse practitioner to understand the process better.
8 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner:
- Acquire your GED or diploma
- Apply to an accredited university/college with a BSN program.
- Earn your BSN and acquire your RN license
- Gain Work Experience
- Select a specialization (Acute Care, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Women’s Health, etc.)
- Join a nurse practitioner graduate program
- Acquire certification and NP licensure
- Find a nurse practitioner position
1. Aquire a GED or Diploma
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to obtain a high school diploma or GED.
Most colleges and universities offering nursing programs require applicants to possess an excellent educational foundation.
Some high school students prepare for the nursing program by taking course-related prerequisites before college.
It enables them to get a head start when applying to a university and taking the required nursing school prerequisites.
2. Finish the Nursing School Prerequisites
To enter the program, aspiring nursing students must complete the prerequisite courses.
You can learn more about nursing school prerequisites here.
It takes approximately 1 – 2 years to complete the necessary prerequisites.
Students must also maintain their GPA average set by the university and meet other school-specific criteria.
Each college has a distinct GPA and prerequisite requirements students must meet.
As a result, it’s essential to determine the requirements of all the nursing programs you want to join.
Many college students apply to several nursing programs to obtain the best odds of getting accepted.
It gives them multiple opportunities to go to nursing school if other colleges don’t accept their application.
3. Join an Accredited Nursing Program
Once you’ve acquired enough prerequisites, your next move is to apply to several nursing programs.
You can apply to an accredited university or college with an ADN or BSN degree program.
Depending on the university, some schools only offer a 2-year ADN program.
As a result, you may need to transfer credits to another school offering a BSN later.
The ADN degree is fantastic for nurses who want to enter the healthcare field quickly and earn a living.
It also enables them to gain work experience and determine their career specialization.
Nevertheless, most nurse practitioner programs require registered nurses to possess a BSN degree before applying.
Therefore you’ll want to ensure you spend the extra time in school to obtain your bachelor of science in nursing degree.
Some nurses acquire their ADN to start working and earn a living while continuing their education to obtain their BSN.
The ADN program offers nurses general education and teachers them about the basics of nursing.
However, it limits nurses in terms of career advancement and specialization.
The BSN provides more in-depth training in science, physiology, the humanities, and other related topics.
It also enables students to enter postgraduate education to acquire their MSN or DNP and become nurse practitioners.
It takes approximately two years to complete the ADN program or four years to complete the BSN.
At the end of the program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and pay licensing fees to obtain their nursing licenses.
4. Gain Work Experience
Some postgraduate programs enable students to pursue further education immediately after obtaining their BSN.
However, most programs recommend or require nurses to obtain work experience before applying.
As a result, you may want to spend several years gaining experience as a registered nurse before returning to school.
One to three years of clinical experience is often enough to apply for a nurse practitioner program.
However, you’ll want to check with the college’s nurse practitioner program to determine their clinical experience requirements.
It would be best if you focus your career experience around the domain you want to specialize in as a nurse practitioner.
It enables you to understand the specialization better and prepares you for your future role as an NP.
The following section lists the different specializations for nurse practitioners.
5. Pick an NP Specialization
Nurse practitioners provide specialized primary care to patients with distinct healthcare needs.
As a result, numerous domains exist to provide care to specific patient demographics.
Some professionals specialize in pediatric care to deliver primary care to infants and young children.
Other healthcare experts specialize in adult gerontology to deliver medical care and treatments to older populations.
Accordingly, you must determine a career specialization before attending postgraduate education.
Nurse Practitioner Specializations:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners
Each specialization has its educational approach and completion time.
Most programs require nursing students to spend 18 to 24 months in schooling, plus clinicals, to obtain their MSN degree.
The DNP degree typically takes three to six years, plus clinicals, depending on the specialization.
6. Join a Nursing Graduate Program
After obtaining adequate nursing experience and determining your discipline, you’ll want to join a nursing graduate program.
Most graduate programs offer nursing students a 2 – 3-year MSN or a 3 – 6-year DNP degree.
Both the MSN and DNP degree enables successful graduates to become nurse practitioners.
The MSN degree generally focuses on clinical care, whereas the DNP concentrates on teaching/leadership.
Nevertheless, selecting a degree ultimately depends on your career goals and interests.
7. Acquire Certification and Licensure
At the end of the postgraduate program, nursing students must pass a national board certification exam to obtain their licensure.
The examination varies depending on the student’s specialization.
For instance, there are examinations for pediatrics, women’s health, and adult gerontology.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) provides additional information about the certification exam.
8. Find Employment
Now that students completed their education and obtained licenses to become nurse practitioners, finding work is vital.
There are numerous healthcare facilities and industries hiring nurse practitioners.
For instance, they work at hospitals, physician offices, urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, cosmetic practices, and other direct care settings.
They also work at government facilities, schools, and other locations, providing care to students and government employees.
Some nurse practitioners even operate independent clinics providing primary care to patients in underserved areas.
As a result, there are many ways to find work as a nurse practitioner.
Most importantly, you’ll want to develop your career experience as an NP to receive better career opportunities.
It’s also essential to develop your experience to open a private practice.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
The time it takes to become a nurse practitioner varies depending on an individual’s goals and prior education.
Becoming a registered nurse requires completing multiple prerequisites and attending a two or four-year nursing program.
The two-year associate’s degree prepares nurses for entry-level careers and enables students to enter healthcare quickly.
However, nurses who pursue postgraduate programs must acquire a bachelor’s (BSN), which takes around four years.
After obtaining a BSN, nurses can pursue advanced education to earn their master’s and become nurse practitioners.
Numerous postgraduate nurse practitioner programs take roughly two years to complete.
As a result, becoming a nurse practitioner takes approximately six to eight years from start to finish.
The prerequisites students must complete before entering nursing school may add one to two years.
Many registered nurses spend up to ten years working before pursuing further education to become nurse practitioners.
That said, no work experience requirements are needed to pursue a master’s degree unless specified by the school.
Some postgraduate programs prefer/require registered nurses to possess some prior direct care experience before joining.
Therefore, registered nurses must determine the school’s conditions before applying for a master’s program.
Is Becoming a Nurse Practitioner Difficult?
Becoming a nurse practitioner can be quite challenging due to the nature of the degree.
Nursing students spend about six to eight years in an academic setting developing expertise and skills to work in this field.
In addition to developing an academic foundation, many registered nurses work while attending postgraduate programs.
As a result, having excellent time management and proficient study routines is essential.
Most postgraduate nursing students cannot afford to be distracted regularly while pursuing their master’s degree.
Simply getting into an NP program differs wildly depending on the school, with acceptance rates ranging from 10% – 85%.
In addition, graduation rates vary dramatically, ranging from 63% to 95% based on different NP program estimates.
Every school has different statistics regarding acceptance, graduation, and first-time NCLEX pass rates.
Therefore, aspiring nurse practitioners must maximize their success by choosing a program/school that serves their needs.
What Are the Requirements to Enter an NP Program?
The requirements to enter a nurse practitioner program vary based on the school and particular degree.
Nevertheless, students must possess a BSN degree to qualify for the NP program.
They must also have valid registered nurse licensure that is not expired.
Many nurse practitioner programs prefer/require registered nurses to have at least one year of direct care experience.
However, this requirement varies depending on the school, and some programs offer direct entry without experience.
Nurses must remain free of felonies to maintain their status while attending the nurse practitioner program.
Are There Online Nurse Practitioner Programs?
There are numerous online nurse practitioner programs for postgraduate students who want to earn their master’s degree.
Schooling is typically a mixture of online and in-person lessons and practicum.
Many schools enable registered nurses to complete most postgraduate coursework online.
However, students must attend in-person training and clinicals.
Registered nurses taking online courses value flexible school schedules, which allow them to work while earning their MSN.
Another benefit of online MSN programs is that tuition fees, transportation, and in-person costs can be less expensive.
Students do not need to occupy college/university seats or use school supplies regularly.
As a result, some savings get passed onto students participating in online academic programs.
The healthcare industry continues to grow annually, while a nursing shortage creates new challenges and opportunities.
As a result, many healthcare institutions require nurse practitioners to provide direct care, management, and education.
The career outlook for NPs is strong, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a 45% growth over the next decade.
Nurse practitioners help fill a vital gap in the healthcare industry.
They help more patients receive primary care by diagnosing and treating various illnesses, injuries, and health issues.
They also operate independent practices in underserved areas bringing healthcare services to less-served locations.
Without nurse practitioners, patient healthcare would significantly decline, and wait times would increase dramatically.
As a result, many nurse practitioners receive excellent pay, benefits, and other incentives to work for particular facilities.
The healthcare industry is relatively secure job-wise and recession-proof.
Healthcare facilities frequently hire nurses and practitioners to manage shortages and fill vacant positions.
Accordingly, there are many opportunities to find reliable work with the growing demand for NPs.