The Importance of Gaining and Keeping NCC Certification

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A nurse practitioner examines a young patient.

The United States will experience a shortage of 122,000 physicians by 2032, according to 2019 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. A projected lack of physicians and primary care providers gives nurse practitioners (NPs) who have earned a post-master’s certificate an advantage when employers look to fill those empty positions. Registered nurses (RNs) can become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with further education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and can receive an additional level of certification through exams provided by the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

The process behind earning and maintaining NCC certification can be complex, but RNs who seek NP status and NPs who seek further specialization can prepare by completing an online post-master’s certificate program. Pursuing online post-master’s certificates gives professionals the opportunity to focus on NP specializations that allow licensed nurses to enhance their knowledge, explore professional benefits, and prepare to sit for certification boards.

NCC Certification at a Glance

The process of advancing in the health care field involves navigating different levels of education, experience, and certification. For example, RNs must participate in clinicals as well as earn their license to practice. Nursing clinicals typically entail shadowing a practicing nurse for a semester of nursing school. Clinicals allow nursing students to apply the skills they have learned and administer patient care. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through an accredited program, nurses can pursue a graduate degree in nursing, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). A practicing NP can then sit for a certification board exam. Different organizations offer various programs and certification boards that award nationally recognized certificates to professionals.

APRNs who desire further certification to help advance their careers can choose from a variety of specialties. Depending on their chosen specialty, they will sit for exams at different certification boards. For example, the NCC provides exams for nurses who focus on women’s health, obstetrics, and neonatal care. The NCC certification primarily leads to the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) credentials, as the NCC mission and vision statements are rooted in providing education and credentialing for the field of women’s health.

The NCC Certification Process

The NCC offers several certification exams. Some subspecialties do not require a nurse to practice before taking the exam but do recommended one to two years of experience as well as current licensure. For the NCC core nursing exams, nurses are required to provide current U.S. nursing licensure as well as experience in the form of practice. For the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner certification exams, nurses must also demonstrate completion of a master’s, post-master’s, or DNP degree and take the NCC certification exam within eight years of graduation.

After graduating from a master’s program, nurses can pursue post-master’s certificates to prepare for the NCC exam. Different programs will focus on skills necessary for different areas of primary care. Regis College’s online post-master’s certificates featuring the women’s health (WHNP) specialization prepare nurses to pursue NCC certification. The program teaches students to care for women at all stages of life, focusing on reproductive and women’s health concerns. Students complete 600 clinical hours in their home area in outpatient women’s health sites. They have asynchronous classes with doctorally prepared, currently practicing WHNPs and Certified Nurse-Midwives, as well as a live 75-minute weekly session to discuss their clinical experiences with faculty and their peers. Regis’s online curriculum can strengthen the knowledge, skills, and insight nurses need to sit for the NCC certification exam.

After receiving NCC certification, nurses need to maintain it. Certificates awarded by the NCC are valid for three years. Certified nurses are responsible for gaining and keeping their certification up to date. They can complete a maintenance application on the NCC website and enter required continuing education credits earned during their maintenance cycle. Individuals have unlimited access to their maintenance requirements through the NCC site. While the NCC makes an effort to alert members when their certification needs to be renewed, it is the nurses’ responsibility to remain up to date.

The Benefits of NCC Certification

While certification is not necessarily required for nurses, earning NCC certification can be vital to their career paths. Becoming certified can open the door to more employment opportunities with positions that often offer higher salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2018 median salary for NPs was $113,980, while the median salary for RNs was $71,730. The job outlook for NPs is strong, with the field projected to grow 26% between 2018 and 2028.

Earning NCC certification not only allows nurses to advance their knowledge and potential earnings but can enable nurses to become health care leaders. With a growing void in the medical field, APRNs can advance in nursing and expand services as primary care providers.

Prepare for NCC Certification

RNs and NPs seeking NCC certification can prepare for the certification exams and a satisfying career in advanced practice nursing through Regis College’s 100% online post-master’s certificate programs. RNs with an MSN who are interested in becoming NPs can complete their certificates in as few as 20 months. Active NPs can complete their certificates in as little as a year. Discover how you can prepare to advance your career in nursing by pursuing an online post-master’s certificate from Regis College.

Recommended Readings

Can You Become a Nurse Practitioner Online? 
Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority? 
What Are the Benefits of Nursing Certification?


American Nurses Association, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) 
Association of American Medical Colleges, “New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage”
National Certification Corporation, Maintain Your Certification
National Certification Corporation, What Is NCC?
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses