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Nurse Practitioner Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Nurse practitioners are a type of primary health care provider and work independently of physicians. A prospective nurse practitioner must be a registered nurse and complete at least a master's degree program in nursing. Often a nurse practitioner will specialize in geriatrics, pediatrics, family practice or women's health.

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How to Choose a Nurse Practitioner School and College

Currently, a master's degree in nursing science with a nurse practitioner focus is the basic educational requirement needed to become a nurse practitioner. However, registered nurses who seek the highest nurse practitioner qualifications can choose to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. Professional objectives dictate whether a prospective student chooses one program over another.

A master's degree in nursing science equips graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to become a nurse practitioner. A Doctor of Nursing (DNP) program expands the nurse practitioner scope to include health care leadership and advanced clinical skills. Therefore, a graduate of a DNP program can compete for jobs in education as well as traditional nurse practitioner and nurse clinician roles. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is proposing a transition to the DNP program as the new standard for nurse practitioner education by the year 2015.

A second consideration for prospective applicants is the type of concentration areas offered by a nurse practitioner degree program. Some common areas of emphasis include critical care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, pediatrics nurse practitioner and neonatal nurse practitioner. Applicants should only consider those schools that have emphasis areas that are of interest to them.

Additionally, prospective students with undergraduate degrees in areas not related to nursing may want to consider Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Master of Science in Nursing programs. This option allows students to focus only on nursing science courses, and the BSN component is typically completed in two years of full-time study. The MSN program may be completed within three years. Entry-level MSN programs are also designed for applicants who have no prior nursing training. Students enrolled in entry-level MSN programs earn their nursing licenses before completing graduate courses in nursing science.

Flexible degree programs and unique clinical experiences are also important considerations for prospective students. Some nurse practitioner degree programs can be completed on a part-time basis. This, of course, extends the duration of the program but accommodates students who have other responsibilities. Clinical experiences in the best hospitals, acute care centers and surgical practices among other areas are attractive to aspiring nurse practitioners because they contribute to the quality of education.

Largest Nurse Practitioner Schools and Colleges by Student Population

College/UniversityStudent PopulationInstitution Type
Michigan State University46,5104-year, Public
Brigham Young University34,2444-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Southern California33,7474-year, Private not-for-profit
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis30,300 4-year, Public
University of Cincinnati29,6174-year, Public
University of Iowa29,1524-year, Public
University of Nevada-Las Vegas28,6004-year, Public
University at Buffalo28,1924-year, Public
East Carolina University27,6774-year, Public
The University of Texas at Arlington25,0844-year, Public
DePaul University24,3524-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Pennsylvania24,1074-year, Private not-for-profit
Kent State University Kent Campus 22,944 4-year, Public
Northern Arizona University22,5024-year, Public
University of Toledo22,3364-year, Public
Kennesaw State University21,4494-year, Public
Illinois State University20,7994-year, Public
The University of Texas at El Paso20,4584-year, Public
Ball State University20,2434-year, Public
Oakland University18,1754-year, Public
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