What are the Requirements to be a Nurse Practitioner?

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Nurses understand the importance of providing treatment for the whole patient, rather than just treating the symptoms a patient may be experiencing. That said, nurses can sometimes feel restricted by their title, especially when a problem or treatment requires the presence of a doctor. Fortunately, there is a path they can pursue to advance their careers and gain more workplace autonomy: becoming a nurse practitioner. What are the requirements to be a nurse practitioner? The process starts in the classroom.

Requirements to Be a Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) is one type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who can become an autonomous health care provider with additional job duties and benefits. There are three primary steps to becoming an NP:

1. Advanced Education

Becoming an NP requires a postgraduate degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). To enter a postgraduate program for nursing, a bachelor’s degree in either science or nursing is necessary. Those on the way to becoming NPs will also have to obtain their registered nurse (RN) licenses and typically will have at least a few years of experience working in a clinical setting.

2. Specialization

All nurses are passionate about helping people heal, although some may prefer to work with children, while others prefer to work with adults. Gaining work experience as an RN will help a future nurse practitioner decide which population he or she would like to work with and focus on during the MSN or DNP program. There are five primary specialization areas:

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Psychiatric–Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

Most MSN or DNP programs will also include clinical work experience during the course of study to put theories learned in class into practice. Working with patients under the guidance of a physician or instructor can help prepare a nurse for the next requirement of becoming an NP.

3. Board Certification and Licensing

When researching what the requirements are for becoming a nurse practitioner, learning about the certification and licensing stage can quickly become overwhelming. The bottom line is this: for NPs to practice, they need to successfully pass the national board certification in their chosen specialty and obtain the right license in the state where they are working.

Multiple associations and professional organizations offer board certification, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Each state will also limit what an NP can do. Nurse practitioners who practice in a full-practice state will have the authority to prescribe medications but will have to apply for additional licensing to do so. Obtaining all the certifications and licenses early on is an important step in making sure an NP can begin practicing sooner.

Benefits to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

At first, exploring the steps required to become a nurse practitioner can prove intimidating. Before long, though, it’s likely to become clear to a dedicated nurse that improving his or her core practice comes with benefits that exceed the trials. These include:

  • Higher salary: The median pay for NPs was $103,000 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which was significantly higher than comparable nursing positions.
  • Increased job opportunities: As the population ages in the U.S., the demand for health care is growing at a staggering rate. NPs will be in higher demand, with the growth rate forecasted by the BLS to be 36 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • Good working environments: Nurse practitioners work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, outpatient care centers, and universities. Depending on the state, an NP can open a private practice, which can be highly rewarding for a nurse who also is interested in running a business.
  • Leadership positions: Given recent changes in the health care landscape, there is a greater need for nurses with advanced education, specialization, and skill to step into management roles. Organizations will look to NPs to fill these roles and help lead teams in delivering the most effective care to patients.

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are over 248,000 licensed NPs in the U.S., and all these nurses have two things in common: they have a desire to effect change, and they did not let the requirements to be a nurse practitioner keep them from getting there. Working on the front line of a health care team, an NP provides primary care for people ranging from infants to the elderly. As the health care landscape shifts and more primary care is handled by NPs, they will be responsible for making decisions that affect the whole health outcome of a patient. Helping a patient thrive is a calling that shouldn’t be ignored.

Learn More

The demand for nurses continues to increase, and the need for professionals with doctorates in the nursing field will only grow. Place yourself on the cutting edge of nursing practice by earning your online DNP degree from Regis College. Speak with an enrollment adviser today about how Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program can help prepare you for the future of nursing in America.

Recommended Reading

BSN to DNP Programs Online – Making It Happen

BSN to DNP Programs Online – Improve Patient Outcomes

What Can I Do With a BSN-DNP Degree?


American Association of Nurse Practitioners

The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

Bureau of Labor Statistics

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

American Association of Nurse Practitioners: State Practice Environment