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.

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If you enjoy working with people and helping them with their health care needs, a career as a nurse practitioner may be for you. Nurse practitioners provide primary care in hospitals and other types of medical care facilities, as well as in a number of different specialties.

Essential Information

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

Required Education Master's degree
Licensure Requirements RN licensure and nurse practitioner licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 31% for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners
Mean Salary (2015)* $101,260 for nurse practitioners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

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 or adult, geriatric, women's or neonatal, acute and occupational healthcare.

Master's education programs take 2-3 years to complete. They focus on providing students with the skills necessary to enter professional health settings. Graduates are eligible to seek professional certification. Common courses include health promotion, pathophysiology, pharmacology, nursing theories.

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 and behavior complexity.


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, (, nurse anesthetists, midwives and practitioner positions are expected to increase by 31% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the national average for all career fields. Additionally, the BLS reported that the mean annual salary for nurse practitioners was $101,260 in May, 2015.

Being a nurse practitioner is a rewarding career choice that requires first becoming a registered nurse (RN), and then completing a master's degree and passing an exam. Nurse practitioner is expected to grow 31% between 2014-2024, a rate much higher than the job market as a whole. This is a growing field for a career as a medical care professional.

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