Online Certified Nurse Practitioner Training Program Information

Get info about online programs in nurse practitioner. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, as well as career and continuing education options.

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Inside Nurse Practitioner Training Programs

Nurse practitioner training programs are available through dozens of universities and typically lead to master's degrees; some schools also offer post-master's certificate programs for those who already have a graduate degree in nursing. Distance learning nurse practitioner programs are designed to prepare students for professional certification in the field. Students can search the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners's (AANPCP) website for approved online programs. Generally, they are offered as hybrid programs that combine online education with on-site clinical experience.

These programs are open to registered nurses who have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Some programs may accept nurses who have a non-nursing bachelor's degree, but they'll have to complete prerequisite coursework in order to be eligible for completing the nurse practitioner program. In addition to recommendation letters, applicants may have to provide documentation regarding their health status, criminal background and whether they have malpractice insurance.

Hybrid Learning

Taking one to two years to complete, distance learning nurse practitioner programs contain mostly online coursework coupled with on-site experiences. Students log into a virtual classroom environment to see lectures, work on assignments and download other instructional materials. Some programs require distance learners to take part in live Web classes each week that utilize video or audio conferencing.

It's not uncommon for online students to have to attend some short on-campus residencies to take part in workshops and other special activities. Just as those on campus, all distance learning nurse practitioner programs require students to complete clinical practicums at an approved health facility, typically in their area. Students usually complete around 500-700 clinical hours.

Common Coursework

Distance learning nurse practitioner programs include core nursing classes along with coursework in a specialization, such as adult-gerontology, family nursing or women's health. Most programs also require students to complete a culminating experience like a major project or professional paper.


Common online courses included in the nurse practitioner core include the following:

  • Nursing informatics
  • Nursing research
  • Advanced practice nursing & leadership
  • Ethics in nursing
  • Pathophysiology

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Professional Certification

AANPCP, the largest professional networking and advocacy organization for nurse practitioners nationwide, operates a certification program for entry-level nurse practitioners. Certification indicates competence in family, adult or gerontologic specialties. To sit for any of these three examinations, applicants usually must be graduates of approved master's or post-master's programs, which are available online. Nurses with equivalent experience or education may petition to take the examination.

Continuing Education

Certifications are renewable at 5-year intervals with passage of an examination and completion of required continuing education units. While exams must be taken in person at established testing sites, continuing education courses needed for re-certification are available online. AANPCP offers its own online CE courses free to members. Qualifying continuing education and re-certification review courses are identified on the organization's website ( .

The following collaborating organizations evaluate nurse practitioner continuing education curricula. These organizations also provide their own continuing education programs online, as well as certification:

  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (
  • American Medical Association (
  • American Academy of Family Physicians (
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants (

Experienced nurses who want to earn professional certifications as nurse practitioners can enroll in hybrid master's degree and post-master's certificate programs, which combine advanced nursing studies with an on-site clinical practicum. Because most of the coursework can be completed online, these programs are ideal for working nurses who want to boost their careers without leaving their jobs to get on-campus education.

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