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Certified Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

Learn about the education requirements necessary to become a certified nurse practitioner. Find out about what certifications are available, how the certification process works, and whether training programs are available online.

What Are the Education Requirements for Certification as a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioner programs are master's degree programs with advanced studies in nursing practice and theories. In addition to a bachelor's degree in nursing, you may be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours in addition to classroom coursework.

As nurse practitioner programs may allow you to concentrate in specialties of advanced nursing education, your clinical component may be specialized as well. For example, if you choose pediatrics as your nurse practitioner program, you will complete clinical rotations in pediatrics.

Degree Level Nurse practitioner programs are offered at the master's degree level
Online OptionsOnline coursework is available and will include clinical hours at a local facility
ANCC CertificationMust be active licensed nurse and have graduated from accredited degree program in addition to passing certification exam
ANCC Specialty AreasCertification available in acute care, adult psychiatric and mental health, family, diabetes management, pediatrics, etc.
Median Salary (2018)$107,030* (for nurse practitioners)
Job Outlook (2016-26)36%* (for all nurse practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Is This Degree Available Online?

You may earn your Master of Science in Nursing through a distance learning program. You can complete the lecture component of your degree online with the faculty at an accredited university, while the clinical component is typically available at a local facility close to your home. Some programs may allow you to use your employer as your clinical site. Online programs may also allow you to complete coursework in subspecialty certification areas and access some of your home institution's libraries and resources online.

How Do I Earn Certification?

National certification is available through such organizations as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Prior to applying and taking the certification exam, you must be an active licensed registered nurse and have graduated from an accredited graduate degree program. The ANCC also notes that nurse practitioner certification applicants should have completed advanced coursework in pharmacology, health assessment and pathophysiology during their schooling (www.nursecredentialing.org).

What Are the Available Certification Areas?

According to ANCC, you may obtain a certification in several specialty areas. You may be required to have a certain number of hours in a corresponding service to sit for the certification exam for the following nurse practitioner certifications:

  • Acute care
  • Gerontology
  • Family psychiatric
  • Adult psychiatric & mental health
  • Diabetes management - advanced
  • Family
  • Pediatrics