ANCC vs AANP: Understanding the Benefits of Certifications

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A nurse consults with patients. ANCC and AANP certifications can help nurse practitioners advance in their careers.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduates look forward to finding a job that will allow them to put their education and training to use. But to land a specialty nurse practitioner (NP) position, a graduate may seek certification from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The AANP is a national membership organization that represents nurse practitioners. The ANCC is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.

The ANCC vs. AANP decision requires an understanding of the types of NP certifications offered by each board. Nurses looking to advance their careers by becoming NPs can prepare for certification by either board by enrolling in Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing. MSN graduates and practicing NPs who are not certified in a specialty can earn one of Regis College’s online post-master’s certificates to prepare for ANCC or AANP certification.

An Overview of ANCC and AANP Certifications

The national certification examinations conducted by the AANP Certification Board (AANPCB) require that nurse practitioners demonstrate their knowledge of specific NP roles and medical specialties. The AANPCB currently offers two entry-level certifications: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP and Family NP. Additionally, Emergency NP is available to family NPs with experience in emergency medicine.

By contrast, the ANCC Certification Program (ANCCCP) offers examinations in four NP specialties:

● Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
● Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
● Family
● Psychiatric-Mental Health (Across the Lifespan)

Benefits of Gaining Either Certification

Certification validates an NP’s expertise in a particular specialty. Once NPs are certified by the ANCC or AANP, they are more likely to be hired by hospitals and health care facilities. Most states require that NPs be certified in their specialties. The activities that certified NPs are allowed to perform vary by state:

● Full practice is permitted in 22 states and the District of Columbia and includes patient evaluation and treatment (including prescribing medications and controlled substances). The National Academy of Medicine and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing recommend this model.
● Reduced practice is stipulated in 16 states and Puerto Rico; at least one component of NP practice is limited by state practice and licensure laws. In some instances, NPs can provide patient care only after entering into a regulated collaborative agreement with another health provider.
● Restricted practice applies to 12 states whose practice and licensure laws prohibit at least one element of NP practice; NPs providing patient care must be supervised by another health provider throughout their careers.

Another benefit of certification is its validation of an NP’s expertise in a particular field of care, such as the four NP certification specialties by the ANCCCP and the three offered by the AANPCB.

How to Prepare for Either Certification

The online post-master’s certificates offered by Regis College provide MSN graduates with an in-depth curriculum to help them prepare to pass ANCC or AANP certification exams.

The certificate program allows students to choose one of five specialties on two separate tracks: one for MSN to NP that can be completed in as few as 20 months and another for current NPs that can take as few as 12 months to complete. According to the AANP, three of four NPs pursue one of the program’s five specialties:

● Pediatrics
● Family
● Psychiatric Mental Health
● Women’s Health
● Adult-Gerontology

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing offers these five NP specialties and aims to prepare students to pass the certification exams from the ANCC and AANP, as well as exams from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and National Certification Corporation. Post-master’s certificate students also can take these exams.

In addition, the ANCC and AANP provide online resources to prepare nurses for the exams. The ANCC Certification Test Prep online modules include a 16.9-hour review course and a 14-hour “PracticeIQ” module for Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP ($399 and $125, respectively) and a 31-hour review course and 16.5-hour “PracticeIQ” module for Family NP ($449 and $125, respectively).

By contrast, AANPCB’s Candidate Handbook for the Family NP and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP certifications, and the association’s Emergency NP Certification Handbook are both available free online. To help applicants prepare for the examinations, the AANPCB offers how-to videos demonstrating the application process as well as re-examination and recertification.

Students reserve examination times online and go to testing facilities, where their IDs are verified.

Learn How to Meet the Growing Demand for NPs

By earning NP certification from the ANCC or AANP, nurse practitioners are ready to take leadership roles in many important health care areas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will increase by 26% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the 5% average growth projected for all occupations. The BLS reports the median annual salary for NPs as of May 2018 was $107,030.

Learn how Regis College’s online post-master’s certificates and online Master of Science in Nursing can help current and future nurse practitioners prepare to advance in their careers.

Recommended Readings

Comparing Career Tracks: Nurse Practitioner vs. Nurse Anesthetist
Using Nursing Skills to Provide Primary Care
Degrees Defined: What Does MSN Mean?


American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, Certification Application and Documents
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, “ENP Certification Handbook”
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, “FNP and AGNP Certification Candidate Handbook”
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, Program Description
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Certification: Recognize Your Education, Skills and Professional Expertise
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment
American Nurses Association, Certification Test Prep
American Nurses Credentialing Center, Our Certifications
Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing
Regis College, Online Post-Master’s Certificates
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners