Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a nurse practitioner. Get an overview of nurse practitioner educational requirements, licensure and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Nurse practitioners are responsible for taking care of patients in a variety of specialized settings. Nurse practitioners must generally obtain at least a master's degree, and must be both nationally registered nurses and certified nurse practitioners.

Required EducationMaster's degree
Licensure RequirementsRN licensure and nurse practitioner licensure
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*34%
Average Salary (2013)*$95,070

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner (NP) provides primary care to patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. He or she is responsible for recording and analyzing a patient's history, performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing physical therapy and other similar tasks. Education requirements to enter the career can vary slightly depending on the specialty, but at least a master's degree education is necessary. Some of the potential care specialties of a NP include:

  • Pediatric
  • Family
  • Adult
  • Geriatric
  • Women's health
  • Neonatal
  • Acute
  • Occupational health

Master of Science in Nursing

These education programs take 2-3 years to complete. They focus on providing students with the skills necessary to enter professional health settings as nurse practitioners. Graduates are eligible to seek professional certification. Common courses include:

  • Health promotion
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing theories

Doctor of Nursing Practice

While completing a Master of Science in Nursing is generally enough to enter the profession, students may opt to complete a doctoral degree program to further enhance their career opportunities and expertise. Programs teach advanced practices in order to better meet patient needs. They can also qualify graduates to become teachers in nursing. Common courses include:

  • Population health
  • Leadership
  • Behavior complexity
  • Capstone project

Licensure

Obtaining licensure as a registered nurse through the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), is required for all nurse practitioners. This is a post-undergraduate prerequisite to becoming an RN, which is a prerequisite to becoming a NP. Passing the NCLEX-RN proves that RNs have the necessary skills to work in the field.

Nurse Practitioner Credentialing

After completing master's degree programs, graduates are eligible to obtain professional certification as NPs. Nurse practitioner programs normally focus on one specialty area of nursing and graduates generally choose to seek certification in the same specialty. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center are two credentialing bodies that offer certifications in nursing. These certifications must be renewed every five years in order to continue development within the profession.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

In order to become a nurse practitioner, one must first be a registered nurse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov), nurse practitioner positions are expected to increase by 34% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the national average for all career fields. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $95,070 as of May 2013.

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