Nurse Practitioner: Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a nurse practitioner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Nurse practitioners must complete a master's degree in nursing that includes clinical practice and pass a certification exam. The job growth for nurse practitioners is expected to be much faster than the job market as a whole.

Essential Information

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who work in primary and specialty patient care. These professionals are educated, licensed and certified to provide care and prescribe medication in the field. Nurse practitioners must be a registered nurse and have a master's degree in nursing. They are also generally required to pass a certification exam.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Registered nurse licensure, certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 31%*
Median Salary (2015) $98,190*


Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

Undergraduate Degree in Nursing

All nurse practitioners (NPs) begin their careers as registered nurses (RNs). Students may become a registered nurse by completing a nursing diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree program, and passing the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses to earn their nursing license, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( While hospitals offer nursing diplomas, associate's and bachelor's degrees in nursing or related fields can be found through community colleges and 4-year universities.

During their training, potential nurses take courses in anatomy, physiology and nursing concepts. Students may also take classes in pharmacology, psychology and microbiology. Some programs require aspiring nurses to take laboratory classes where they can become familiarized with lab instruments and procedures. Additionally, nursing programs include an internship or clinical practicum in which students work with medical professionals in a hospital or healthcare setting to advance their nursing skills and gain practical experience.

Master of Science in Nursing

Aspiring NPs must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which can take 2-3 years. Students will take advanced courses in pathophysiology, health assessment and advanced practice nursing, as well as enhance their knowledge and understanding of diagnosis and treatment. Many MSN programs include a nurse practitioner track with subject specializations, such as pediatric, adult or family care. Students usually complete clinical experiences in a healthcare facility.


The American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offer several voluntary certifications for nurse practitioners in such subspecialties as acute care. To be eligible, applicants must have a graduate degree in nursing. Qualified candidates may then take the respective certification exam to earn their credentials. After receiving their certifications, nurse practitioners must complete continuing education periodically to maintain their certification.

Salary and Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that nurse practitioners, will have a much faster than average job growth in the coming decade of 2014-2024. The BLS reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary of nurse practitioners was $98,190.

Nurse practitioners must first earn a bachelor's degree and become registered nurses by completing licensing and certification requirements. They then complete a master's degree in nursing with a subject specialization. Certification is also available, though not always required.

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