Nurse Practitioner: Educational Requirements

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. Read this article to learn the educational requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner.

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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 (www.bls.org). 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.

Certification

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 all registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, will have faster than average job growth in the coming decade of 2010-2020. The BLS reported in May 2012 that the median annual salary of nurse practitioners was $89,960.

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