Master's Degree Programs for Nurse Practitioners

Through a master's degree program, registered nurses can focus their studies on acute care, pediatrics, mental health or another nurse practitioner concentration; graduates may also be qualified to work in nursing management roles. Keep reading to learn about your degree options, typical courses offered and online learning possibilities. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Nurse Practitioner Master's Degrees Can I Earn?

Through a Master of Science in Nursing program, you can specialize to become a nurse practitioner in a variety of areas. These include cardiac health, oncology, acute care, mental health, pediatrics and family health. A master's degree program for nurse practitioners usually requires you to choose a specialty once you are enrolled (or sometimes at time of application).

If you are already a licensed nurse practitioner, you can continue your graduate study through a post-master's certificate. These programs allow you to specialize in such areas as nursing leadership, nurse anesthesia, nurse-midwifery and nursing education. These highly focused programs can usually be completed on a part-time basis - while you continue working - in 1-2 years.

Sample Specialization Areas Pediatrics, oncology, family health, cardiac health, mental health
Common Courses Varies by specialization, but can include child development, patient care practices, group therapy, pathophysiology
Similar Programs Direct-entry advanced practice nursing programs for applicants with a non-nursing bachelor's degree
Learning Environments Traditional classroom and distance learning degree options are available

What Will I Study?

Your studies during a Master of Science in Nursing program will vary according to the specialty you choose. For instance, in a pediatrics specialty you may study child care and child development. In a mental health specialty, you'll study topics like psychopharmacology, group therapy and mental health theories. Aspiring family health nurse practitioners study pharmacology, healthcare systems and pathophysiology.

Certain classes will appear in your M.S.N. program regardless of the specialty you choose. These include courses in leadership, patient care, work relations, problem-solving skills and scheduling. Such studies are designed to prepare you for management positions in which you may supervise many nurses.

You'll also take clinical courses, where you'll gain hands-on training and put your new knowledge into practice. You'll have the opportunity to interact with patients under faculty supervision and work with other health care providers to develop treatment plans. Upon completion of your degree, you'll be prepared to take the nurse practitioner certification exam in your specialty offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What If I'm Not a Registered Nurse?

There are advanced practice nursing programs designed for students who have a bachelor's degree but no nursing background. After the first phase of these direct-entry programs, you will take the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) in order to obtain RN licensure. In most cases, you must pass this exam before starting the graduate-level clinical portion of the program.

Typically, these full-time programs take 3-4 years to complete. Many of them allow you to focus on a specialty. Some programs also include a co-op component - a paid, practical nursing experience in a local clinic or hospital.

Can I Earn the Degree Online?

Master's degrees to become a nurse practitioner are widely available over the Internet, and many of these programs also allow you to specialize. However, you may have to complete clinical practicum requirements at an approved clinic or hospital. Occasional campus visits may also be required by some programs.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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