Nurse Practitioner Degree Program Overviews

Most nurse practitioner master's degree programs are designed for registered nurses, and they typically last between one and two years. Students may focus on a specialty, such as acute care, geriatric care or pediatric care.

Essential Information

In general, students learn how to order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, take comprehensive patient histories and develop and execute treatment plans. An MSN program takes 1-2 years to complete and prepares graduates to sit for licensing boards in their particular states, as well as national board certification through either the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Students must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and they must be licensed and registered. Program levels for nurse practitioners include associate's, certificate, bachelor's, and master's. Available program specializations include but are not limited to clinical pharmacology, pathophysiology, and primary family care.

Master's Degree in Nursing

All aspiring nurse practitioners must first complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, or BSN, before enrolling in a master's degree program. Some students may elect to first complete an associate's degree or certificate program in nursing and gain practical experience before going on to complete a BSN.

In addition to an undergraduate degree, all those applying to a nurse practitioner program must be registered, licensed nurses. Typically, they must also prove that they have worked at least two years as a registered nurse before applying to a nurse practitioner program.

Courses included in a nurse practitioner master's degree program include both traditional classroom lectures and mandatory clinical experience. Some of these courses include:

  • Patient assessment and clinical diagnosis
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Nursing research and theory
  • Nursing management
  • Primary family care

Popular Career Options

Career opportunities for registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, are expected to increase by 16% in the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( This is because nurse practitioners can perform many of the same procedures as physicians at a fraction of the cost, making them attractive alternatives in rural communities. The BLS reported that the median salary for nurse practitioners was $98,190 in May 2015.

Nurse practitioner master's degree programs require clinical experience in addition to traditional classroom lectures. There are a wide range of specializations available.

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