How Long Does IT Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has gone on to complete graduate-level nursing education. You could spend about six years in total training for this position, but you may need to acquire an additional 1-2 years of work experience before applying to graduate programs for nurse practitioners. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide primary and specialty care to patients, much like physicians. In most states, you'll be allowed to prescribe medications as a nurse practitioner. You'll work independently, and your duties could include performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests and administering treatment plans.
Important Facts About Nurse Practitioners
|Median Salary (2014)||$95,350|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||35% growth|
|Work Environment||Offices of physicians; hospitals; outpatient care centers; educational services|
|Similar Occupations||Audiologists; occupational therapists; physician assistants; physical therapists; physicians and surgeons; registered nurses|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner
If you'd like to become a nurse practitioner, you can expect to complete somewhere between 6-8 years in training. You'll begin your career as a registered nurse (RN). While you can meet RN licensure requirements with a 2-year associate's degree or diploma in nursing, you'll want to consider earning a bachelor's degree in nursing, since a bachelor's degree is required to be admitted into graduate nurse practitioner programs. After earning your undergraduate degree, you'll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.
Once you've obtained your RN license, you may then begin on the path to becoming a nurse practitioner. The steps you take to become a nurse practitioner will include gaining nursing experience, completing a graduate program, becoming licensed and obtaining certification.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you'll need to earn at least a master's degree in nursing to work as a nurse practitioner (www.bls.gov). In these 2-year programs, you'll gain clinical experience and complete coursework in clinical reasoning, physiology and research methods. You also have the option to choose a nurse practitioner specialty area to study, such as psychiatric, clinical, adult, pediatric, geriatric or family nursing.
To enter a master's degree program in nursing, you'll usually need to have your registered nursing license, hold a bachelor's degree in nursing, submit professional letters of reference and meet GPA requirements. You may also need to complete pre-graduate tests, submit a resume, complete an interview and have work experience in the area in which you want to specialize.
Most states have licensing requirements for nurse practitioners beyond an RN license. The requirements vary widely by state and are usually managed by the state's board of nursing.
For example, according to the Oregon Board of Nursing, you must have a nurse practitioner's license (www.oregon.gov). To get this license, you need to hold a current RN license, have a master's degree in nursing and complete a nurse practitioner program in your specialty area. To maintain your license, you must meet continuing education requirements.
Some states could require you to hold professional certification as a nurse practitioner to obtain a license. In states where you're authorized to prescribe medicine, you might need to acquire a federal Drug Enforcement Administration number.
Certification is usually optional, unless required by law for licensing. Several organizations offer professional certifications for nurse practitioners, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Getting certified by the ANCC can help you demonstrate your skills in your specialty area.
The ANCC offers certification options in a number of specialty areas, including acute care, adult, psychiatric and mental health, family, gerontological and pediatric nursing (www.nursecredentialing.org). The requirements for each certification vary, but all of them require you to have a current RN license and to have completed a graduate program in your specialty. For mental health or psychiatric certifications, you may also need training in psychotherapeutic treatments.
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