Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

List of Colleges that have Nursing Practitioner Programs

1) What Types of Nurse Practitioner Degrees Exist and What are They Called?

Whether already a registered nurse (R.N.) or just starting an education, a degree is a key aspect to becoming a nurse practitioner (N.P.). Below are just some of the degrees available.

  1. Licensed Practical Nurse (L.P.N.)
    This nursing diploma only takes a year to earn after high school and can be an important step in becoming a nurse practitioner.
  2. Associate Degree in Nursing (A.D.N.)
    This two year degree focuses on technical nursing skills, along with core math, science, and English classes.
  3. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.)
    Four years of study is the requirement for this bachelor level degree and includes two years of basic classes and two more in nursing.
  4. Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.)
    A graduate degree, this is one of the more common choices for nurse practitioners. It takes two years to earn after a bachelor’s degree is completed.
  5. Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
    Another graduate degree, advanced studies include the clinical aspects of nursing in more detail.
  6. Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D. in Nursing)
    Similar to the above, this degree focuses on the more academic and teaching areas of nursing.

Becoming a nurse practitioner involves earning an accredited degree, usually at the master’s or higher level. Those who already have nursing degrees can also return to school for an M.S.N. or similar degree. Many schools offer L.V.N. to R.N, A.D.N. to B.S.N. and B.S.N. to M.S.N. programs along with everything in between. If you are already a nurse, take advantage of what you have already learned to get credit for the degree you need to become a nurse practitioner.

2) Where Can I Find Nurse Practitioner Degree Rankings?

There are three common degrees to becoming a registered nurse, which is necessary when becoming a nurse practitioner. They include the Associate’s Degree in Nursing (A.D.N.), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), and Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.). If looking to get one or more degrees in nursing, the most important thing to learn about a school is whether or not it is accredited. The easiest way to do so is to visit the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. A quick search can tell if a school is accredited and what agency it is accredited by.

There are also several agencies that accredit nurse practitioner degrees and programs on their own. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners is just one of them. With 25 years of experience, they have a special section for nurses pursuing a continuing education. They even list approved online activities, many of which also offer pharmacology credit. They also have independent study programs and other nursing tools.

Other accrediting agencies include the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Anyone from R.N.’s to nurse practitioner can visit to check out the recognized Magnet programs and the Pathway to Excellence. Students can also visit the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. You can search for an accredited nursing program by state or even country. You can also narrow the results to everything from a practical nursing degree to doctorate.

Because each state has its own regulations regarding nurse practitioners, be sure and know if the school you are interested in is recognized and approved to provide education for nurse practitioners. This includes the exam to become a registered nurse, the proper degree, and any approved advanced training program that may be required.

3) Can I Transfer Nurse Practitioner Degree Credits?

If you are already a nurse or have some college courses completed, transfer credits are important to cutting down on tuition costs, as well as time spent studying. Transfer credits allow the student to get credit for classes taken and passed, such as the basics in math, science, and history. This is a common practice when switching schools, majors, and using past education to become a nurse practitioner.

One of the most common ways transfer credits are lost is between nationally accredited and regionally accredited schools. While accreditation is key to any degree, schools that are nationally accredited may not accept or give out transfer credits to schools that are regionally accredited and vice versa. Because transfer credits are so important, learn as soon as possible if, how many, and what classes you can transfer from your current or future school and where they transfer to.

One of the best and easiest ways to bypass transfer credit requirements is to already have a degree in nursing. There are tons of programs designed to turn L.P.N.’s to R.N.’s, R.N.’s to A.D.N.’s, A.D.N.’s to B.S.N.’s, and B.S.N.’s to M.S.N.’s. Although not all degrees are required to become a nurse practitioner, it usually takes at least one undergraduate degree and then a master’s or doctorate after.

However, if you are already a nurse in some sort of capacity, your current degree can apply to a future one more easily than transfer credits depending on the school. For example, nurses with an associate’s degree can begin studies at the bachelor’s level and earn it in only two years. Likewise, nurses with a B.S.N. can get an M.S.N. in two years or less, depending on the school. Even if your degree is not in nursing, you can still get credit for core classes such as math, history, and apply them to your studies as a nurse practitioner.

4) What Career Can I Get With a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

Although “nurse practitioner” is the most thought of profession, there are also many other careers available with this advanced degree.

  1. Registered Nurse
    Even if going straight from high school to a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse license must be obtained and this position is often worked before becoming a nurse practitioner.
  2. Family Nurse Practitioner
    Similar to a family doctor, this nurse practitioner practices general medicine, including diagnosis and management of diseases and conditions.
  3. Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner
    This NP works with infants and children of all ages.
  4. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
    These nurse practitioners perform similar tasks as an OB/GYN and focus on medicine for women.
  5. Certified Nurse Midwife
    This advanced practice nurse has additional training focused on delivering babies and providing prenatal and postpartum care to women.
  6. Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
    Along with the basics of nurse practitioner, this NP can specialize in many areas of medicine including anesthesia, geriatrics, and more.
  7. Clinical Nurse Manager
    Manage the more administrative aspects of nursing in this career.
  8. Clinical Nurse Specialist
    Similar to the above, the career involves getting an advanced nursing degree and organizing services and resources to control costs.
  9. Director of Nursing
    Head up an entire nursing department in this career. A graduate degree is usually the standard along with years of experience.

There are also many specialty aspects to becoming a nurse practitioner that can include everything from cardiovascular to geriatrics. With both a nursing shortage and longer waiting lists for doctors, nurse practitioners are in more demand and can often take the place of doctor when performing tasks such as physicals, diagnosis of common ailments, and even prescription drug management.

5) How do I Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is a degree. If just coming out of high school, the typical time it takes to earn the advanced nursing degree is six years. Generally an undergraduate degree, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s, is required before completing a Master of Science Nursing, which is one of the staples to becoming a nurse practitioner.

There are also many other programs for just about any education level. For example, there are accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. These programs can be completed in as little as a year and can even give the student both a B.S.N. and M.S.N depending on the school. There are also accelerated Master of Science in Nursing Programs that can include specialties such as clinical, family, pediatrics, and more.

While studying for an M.S.N. or other advanced degree for nurse practitioners, a nursing license must be obtained. In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination. Known as the National Council Licensure Examination, or, NCLEX, it is used to test the knowledge of entry level nurses and is a vital part of getting a nursing license.

Once a license is obtained, a registered nurse is usually the starting position. Specialties can be moved towards and a degree can be earned while holding a job as an R.N. If looking to go into one of the more administrative positions of nursing such as management and administration, a graduate degree is becoming more and more the standard. A nurse practitioner who practices more traditional aspects of medicine usually needs a master’s degree or higher, depending on the state, and can work in hospitals, clinics, or even start their own practice.

6) What is the Average Salary for a Nurse Practitioner?

Before becoming a nurse practitioner, many spend time as registered nurses. The average annual salary of an R.N. according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics was $62,450 in May of 2008. The best paying employers for registered nurses was employment services and hospitals at $68,160 and $63,880 for each. The lowest paying employer for the same year was nursing care facilities at $57,060.

When taking all aspects into account such as area of practice, years of experience, and location, the average salary for nurse practitioners is currently $80,280 according to This includes any bonuses and profit sharing involved. When factoring in education, those who earned the most where N.P.’s who held a Master of Science in Nursing with an average annual salary of $78,170. Nurse practitioners who had a Bachelor of Science in Nursing had a yearly median pay of $72,727 according to the same site.

The type of nurse practitioner career also affects pay. According to, pediatrics nurse practitioners earn the least with an average annual salary of $73,099. In the middle of the pack are family nurse practitioners, advanced registered nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse managers. They had annual average salaries of $74,608, $78,630, and $82,015, respectively.

Type of employer also has an impact on salary for nurse practitioners. lists the salary of several N.P.’s and shows that a few can even break the six figure mark. Three of the best paying careers included the nurse practitioners of a correctional facility at $121,000, a hospitalist nurse practitioner at $115,000, and psychiatric nurse practitioner at $104,000.

7) Where Can I Find Nurse Practitioner Scholarships?

Because becoming a nurse practitioner often involves a graduate degree, paying for school can be scary. However, there are many opportunities to help fund your education and we have listed a few below.

  1. FAFSA
    Fill this form out as early as possible to get all the information on federal funding for your education. Available online or in person at the financial aid office of just about any school, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid costs nothing to fill out, turn in, and learn which scholarships and grants you qualify for.
  2. Nursing World
    Part of the American Nurses Association, they offer free membership to nursing students. By simply sending in your name, school, and current year, you can get free access to many of their resources, including scholarships.
  3. CNS Foundation Scholarships
    These scholarships are offered by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. Other resources for students include a career center and items for teachers.
  4. AANP Foundation Scholarship Program
    The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers scholarships to both M.S.N. students and for practicing N.P.’s, as well as students. Membership is required.
  5. FNSNA Scholarships
    Several nursing scholarships are offered by the National Student Nurses Association. They also have tools for those studying to become nurses and even information on grants.
  6. Scholarships
    Sing up for an account here to be connected to over $19 billion of scholarships for every kind of student, including nurse practitioners.
  7. Fast Web
    Similar to the above, over 50 million people have signed up to learn more about scholarships, grants, and other ways of paying for school.
  8. Discover Nursing
    Get just the nursing scholarships on this site. You can also select by state, grade point average, and education level.
  9. National Health Service Corps Scholarship
    To be eligible for this scholarship, students need is to be accepted by an accredited program for nurse practitioners. Those awarded scholarships are required to serve at an approved site for one year for each year of support.
  10. AACN Scholarships and Financial Aid
    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing lists several scholarships. They include for after college, nurse educators, and even minorities.

And scholarships are not the only form of funding available for those seeking a degree as a nurse practitioner. Grants are also given out by the federal, state, and local government to students that have demonstrated need. By filling out the FAFSA, you can see which type of federal grant(s) you are eligible for. The state, city, and even county you live in might also award grants, and the best way to search and apply is by contacting the financial aid office of your school.

Student loans can also be used to pay for school. However, much like any other kind of loan, they have to be paid back. Terms for a student loan usually include money awarded up front after submitting and having an application approved, payments not starting until after graduation, and a low interest rate. Be sure and research all aspects of paying for a degree before committing to a loan.

One of the best ways to pay for a nursing degree is to see if your employer offers incentives to becoming a nurse practitioner. Because they are so in demand, a nurse practitioner currently working as an R.N. or other nurse can have part or all of their education paid for by an employer under the right circumstances. It can also be an essential question to ask before taking a nursing position.


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