Nurse Practitioner Schools: What If You Want To Get Certified?

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As opposed to a registered nurse—which requires an associate’s degree in nursing, associate of applied science in nursing, or bachelor’s of science in nursing—a nurse practitioner holds a graduate degree in nursing. The most common degrees for nurse practitioners to obtain are master’s of science in nursing and doctor of nursing practice. This sort of graduate training is what is referred to by the term nurse practitioner school. In addition to holding higher degrees, nurse practitioners are also licensed as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). As a result of their advanced and specialized training, nurse practitioners are certified for duties beyond those of a registered nurse, particularly the advanced diagnosis and treatment of disease in certain populations, which is called the nurse’s focus. Like registered nurses, nurse practitioners must also be licensed in the state in which they practice as well as by a national council. Becoming a nurse practitioner is an excellent career path for anyone who wants to work as a specialist in the medical field, wants to go above and beyond simply being a registered nurse but does not wish to become a medical doctor. While not quite as rigorous or time-consuming as medical school, the education and training to become a nurse practitioner is nonetheless a lengthy and intensive process. The guide below will help you to better understand the academic requirements of becoming a nurse practitioner and achieving the prerequisites of an APRN certification.

Preliminary Programs

All nurse practitioners are required to be licensed as registered nurses, so before you can proceed onto a graduate nursing program, you will need to first need your nursing certification. This requires a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), or some comparable degree. These typically require about four years of schooling to complete. The BSN also fulfills the educational requirements for admission into most graduate nursing programs, and completing this preliminary degree usually involves obtaining certification as a registered nurse. After graduation and accreditation, registered nurses typically spend a year or two gaining experience on the job. They often concentrate on the care of a particular patient population as preparation for the specialized focus they wish to pursue in their course of graduate study and in their ensuing careers as nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Programs

As noted above, most graduate nursing programs require applicants to hold a BSN, though this is not universally true. RN to MSN programs allow registered nurses working with an associate’s degree to enroll in programs that will lead them to a master’s of science in nursing. Some schools also offer an accelerated bachelor’s of science in nursing program to students who meet certain educational prerequisites, and some of the credit earned in this program can also be counted toward their graduate degree. The course of graduate study in a nurse practitioner program varies significantly based on the student’s chosen field of specialization. The range of focuses spans pediatric and neonatal care, women’s health, occupational healthcare, geriatric care, family care and others. Thanks to their sophisticated and more specialized training, nurse practitioners are qualified for advanced diagnoses and treatment of disease within their chosen area of expertise. A master’s of science in nursing typically takes about a year and a half to two years to complete. While this master’s degree is typically sufficient to qualify for APRN certification, the doctor of nursing practice is considered to be the preferred degree for nurse practitioners. This more advanced degree takes about four years of study and clinical experience to complete.

Online Programs

Many registered nurses are choosing to pursue advanced degrees and APRN certification in order to further their medical careers and improve their capabilities as a healthcare provider. However, not all registered nurses are willing or able to dedicate themselves to a full-time graduate program. Luckily, more and more schools are offering advanced nursing degrees online, in one form or another. Some programs are conducted purely online, with the exception of placement in healthcare facilities for practical training. Other hybrid programs can be completed primarily online but will require the student to visit campus a few times throughout the duration of the program. For a registered nurse who wants to gain advanced expertise and take his or her career to the next level while continuing to work, these virtual and hybrid programs provide the perfect balance of flexibility and educational opportunity. One of main draws toward achieving nurse practitioner status is that the job is extremely well paid and is currently in high demand—a trend that is not likely to end any time soon. In 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for a nurse practitioner was over $100,000, double the national average of all professions. Moreover, from 2014 to 2024, demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 35 percent—more than five times the average anticipated growth for all other professional occupations. For anyone seeking a lucrative and rewarding career in the medical field, becoming a nurse practitioner is an ideal path.