Are you a nurse practitioner (NP) with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) who is interested in seeking board-certification in a new medical specialty or subspecialty? In that case, some NP schools have designed programs just for you. These programs are usually called post-master’s certificates but they are available for NPs who have a DNP as well.
These programs accept students with a valid registered nurse (RN) license, NP license, board-certification, and a strong academic record. They usually offer a wide variety of specialty and subspecialty options ranging from women’s health to orthopedics. Typically, these programs range from nine to 25 credit hours and require the completion of around 650 precepted clinical hours under the supervision of a nurse practitioner. Usually, much or most of the program can be completed online and at a distance, while other parts may need to be completed on campus. Please be sure to check each program’s campus visitation requirements carefully, to understand whether the program is totally online, or whether it requires periodic campus visits.
This post provides an overview of the admission requirements, prerequisites, clinical specialty options, courses and curriculum, and duration and accreditation of post-master’s certificate programs. Each school has its own requirements, so be sure to always check their website for the most up-to-date information.
Admission requirements for online post-master’s certificate programs vary by school, but they almost always include:
A resume or curriculum vitae
Additionally, some schools require applicants to submit their Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores.
Some schools offer programs designed for registered nurses who hold an MSN degree but not an NP specialization. These programs, like the one offered at University of Massachusetts Boston, tend to require the completion of additional didactic credits and can thus take an additional semester or so to complete. The aforementioned program, for example, requires non-NPs to complete 21 credits, and NPs to complete 12.
Applicants for post-master’s certificate programs must demonstrate that they completed certain core NP courses in their previous MSN or DNP program. Usually, programs require applicants to have earned a “B” or higher in the following core NP courses:
Post-master’s certificate programs usually offer a wide variety of specialty and subspecialty options. Specialty options include:
Some schools offer subspecialities. To practice in a subspecialty, students are required to take additional classes and complete extra clinical rotations. Nurse practitioner subspecialities include:
Because students in post-master’s certificate programs are usually already practicing NPs, their courses focus entirely on their new medical specialty. For example, a student is a psychiatric post-master’s certificate program would only be required to take psychiatry courses. These courses might include:
Most post-master’s certificate programs are less than 20 credit hours, and they require around 650 precepted clinical hours. They are usually completed on a part-time basis by NPs who are also working full-time. These post-master’s certificates are often completed over one to two years. As mentioned, programs designed registered nurses without a national NP certification generally require the completion of additional courses, and consequently may require students to complete more than 20 credit hours.
Both traditional and online post-master’s NP certificate programs are accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Accreditation ensures that the program meets high standards of quality, rigor, and value. You can search for accredited programs through the CCNE and ACEN websites.
Located in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga University offers three programs for those who already have a master of science in nursing to become either a family, psychiatric-mental health, or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner. Their program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and they were ranked number four best regional university in the western United States by the U.S. News and World Report. The Princeton Review and Forbes Magazine have also ranked Gonzaga University as one of the country’s best higher education institutions.
The Gonzaga University post-master’s nurse practitioner program can be described as academically rigorous and student-focused. Their online programs utilize top-of-the-line instructional design technology while still maintaining an affordable tuition. In fact, U.S. News and World Report also ranked them number 3 in best value education. Founded on the Jesuit ethos of “people for others,” Gonzaga enhances its curriculum with study abroad opportunities and other service experiences. They are also known for their strong alumni network and extensive career support services.
The Gonzaga curriculum consists of core classes, specialty classes, and on-campus immersions. Core classes are eight weeks in duration, and students can typically transfer these courses from their previous master’s program. Examples of core classes include Information Technology and Data Management, Contemporary Healthcare Environment, and Evidence-based practice for Quality and Safety. Specialty classes are 16 weeks in duration and usually students can only transfer a few of these. Examples of specialty classes include Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology, and Health Assessment.
Every nurse practitioner program at Gonzaga requires on-campus immersive experiences. The timing of these immersions is dependent on the student’s course progression. During on-campus immersions, students participate in Culminating Observed Structured Clinical Evaluations. During these evaluations, students are given a clinical scenario and they must obtain a history, complete an exam, identify differential diagnoses, and develop a treatment plan.
Gonzaga University offers three post-master’s programs for nurse practitioners: family, psychiatric-mental health, or adult-gerontology. Each program varies in the number of required courses, credit hours, and on-campus immersion experiences. Admissions counselors review each student’s application to determine the number of transfer credits and to create a customized plan of study.
Admission requirements for the post-master’s nurse practitioner program at Gonzaga University include:
Applicants who would like to transfer credit from their first master’s degree must complete and submit the “Permission to Transfer Graduate Credits” form with the accompanying syllabus or course description from each previous course. Applicants should look closely at the Gonzaga post-master’s curriculum and compare it with the courses they have already taken. Typically, courses that will transfer from your previous master’s program include:
Applicants should remember that the courses they have already taken may transfer even if they do not have the same name as the courses at Gonzaga. It is important to submit the syllabus or course description in order for the admission team to determine transferability.
Gonzaga University’s Virtual Campus Instructional Design and Delivery (iDD) office is a dedicated resource for all online and hybrid students. The iDD team is comprised of instructional designers and digital content producers, and they strive to make all courses innovative, engaging, and intensely interactive. This team uses game-based learning principles, social media, and asynchronous learning methods to create the best experience for all nurse practitioner students. In addition to attending the virtual campus, students also undergo on-campus immersion experiences throughout the program.
Dr. Neva Crogan is a board-certified geriatric nurse practitioner and professor in the Gonzaga University Department of Nursing. She conducts research on aging and teaches courses in the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner program. In 2013, she won the Sigma Theta Tau International Research Utilization Award for developing an evidence-based approach to enhancing nursing home resident food choice and quality of life. She is a member of the National Gerontological Nursing Association and a fellow of the American Academy of Nurses.
The post-master’s program at Gonzaga can last up to nine semesters, depending on the number of credits a student transfers from his or her previous master’s curriculum. Upon graduation, students become eligible to take the board-certification exam in their specialty area. Generally, students prepare for their board exam by taking a certification preparation course or studying independently for three to four months. During this time, students may also begin their job search.
After passing the exam, students apply for their nurse practitioner licensure in their state of residence, which can take an additional two to three months. While waiting, students may continue their job search and begin interviewing. On average, three to six months will lapse between graduation and a new nurse practitioner starting his or her first job.
Kent State University (KSU) College of Nursing offers post-master’s certificate programs for those who already have a master’s degree in nursing and wish to become either a family, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, or women’s health nurse practitioner. Uniquely, KSU has partnered with over 350 different clinical sites in order to offer a diverse hands-on experience for its nurse practitioner students.
Throughout their history, the KSU College of Nursing has won numerous awards. In 2013, the National League for Nursing named them a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education, and in 2012 they received the Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Their clinical simulation lab includes start-of-the-art technology, providing technologically advanced education to hundreds of students every year. Kent State University is also well-renowned for their large alumni network, which hit 12,000 members in May 2015.
The post-master’s certificate programs at KSU afford a flexible, 100% online plan of study. Students can complete the program either full or part-time. The KSU College of Nursing offers six different nurse practitioner specialties: family, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, or women’s health. Each program is divided into two sets of requirements that vary slightly by chosen specialty: certificate requirements and prerequisite requirements.
Table 1 includes the certificate requirements and table 2 two includes the prerequisite requirements. Applicants should note that if they have not met all of the prerequisite requirements, their post-master’s certificate curriculum can be altered to meet their individual needs. Students should contact the College of Nursing to create a customized curriculum.
|Table 1: Kent State University Certificate Requirements|
|Specialty Track||Total Credit Hours||NP Clinical Hours|
|Adult Gerontology Primary Care||15||525|
|Adult Gerontology Acute Care||12||525|
Admission requirements for the KSU College of Nursing post-master’s certificate program include the following.
At KSU, the prerequisites vary by chosen specialty. Table 2 below lists the prerequisites for each clinical specialty area; however, applicants should always check the KSU website for any recent updates. Furthermore, if an applicant’s sees a course that they have not already taken, they should contact the College of Nursing to create a customized curriculum.
|Table 2: Kent State University Certificate Requirements|
|Specialty Track||Prerequisite Course Requirements||Credit Hours|
|Adult Gerontology Primary Care||
|Adult Gerontology Acute Care||
Offering their first distance education program over 15 years ago, KSU is a pioneer in online teaching. They offer 30 different degrees through their virtual campus, and their School of Library and Information Science in ranked number 18 by U.S. News and World Report. Kent State University’s online programs were designed with the adult-learner in mind, and they offer an excellent alternative to campus-based education. For more specific information about online nursing courses, please contact the KSU College of Nursing.
Dr. Louise Knox is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and assistant professor in the KSU College of Nursing. She has worked in a primary care outpatient family practice and retail clinical setting for over 16 years. She teaches a variety of courses including Advanced Leadership in Healthcare and Chronically Ill Adult Practicum. Dr. Knox’s scholarly interests include health promotion and physical activity. She is a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses, and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty.
Dr. Jo Dowell is a dual certified pediatric and family nurse practitioner and assistant professor in the KSU College of Nursing. Her research interests include children with asthma and their mothers’ communication with healthcare providers. She has completed three years of postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University and Ohio State University, and she has received two large grants to conduct studies on children’s health needs. At KSU, she teaches Introduction to Evidence-Based practice and Health Policy. She is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on School Health, International Nurse Practitioner Association, and Society of Pediatric Psychology.
Applicants usually take three to six months to complete their application. The overall duration of post-master’s programs depends on the number of prerequisites the student has already fulfilled. At KSU, these programs typically last eight to 25 credit hours, which can take one to two years to complete depending on full or part-time study. Upon graduation, students become eligible to take their board-certification exam. Often, students prepare for this exam for about 6 months while also applying for jobs. After passing the exam, students apply for their nurse practitioner licensure in their state of residence, which can take an additional two to three months. On average the process of earning a post-master’s certificate at KSU can take one to three years.
Thomas Jefferson University College of Nursing began educating nurses in 1891. Believing in interdisciplinary education, Jefferson educates their nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physicians, and technologists in the same classrooms and simulation labs. Recently, U.S. News and World Report named Jefferson one of the top 100 best graduate nursing schools in the country, and the National League for Nursing named them a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. This nurse practitioner school is well-known for its commitment to diversity and its steadfast value of innovative, collaboration, respect, and empowerment.
Thomas Jefferson University College of Nursing is fully accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. They are partnered with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, which is one of the few United States hospital’s to earn Magnet designation for nursing excellence. Their Dean, Dr. Beth Ann Swan, is a nurse practitioner and fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. Dr. Swan emphasizes the caliber of Jefferson by citing their innovative curriculum, cutting-edge technology, and collaboration with physician and pharmacy students.
Thomas Jefferson College of Nursing offers six different post-master’s nurse practitioner certificates: family, adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, neonatal, pediatric, and women’s health. Recent Thomas Jefferson graduates had a 95% pass rate on their national certification exams, and 98% were able to find a job upon graduation. Their program is rigorous, only accepting students with a grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or higher. The curriculum includes Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics, Pathophysiology of Human Disease, Comprehensive Assessment for Clinical Decision Making, and three specialty courses.
Students in the Jefferson post-master’s certificate program may choose to specialize in adult gerontology primary care, adult-gerontology acute care, family, pediatric, neonatal, or women’s health. Each track is 18 credit hours and consists of three core courses and three specialty courses.
Admission requirements for the Thomas Jefferson University post-master’s certificate program include the following.
All post-master’s certificate courses can be completed online. Online students have access to a large number of resources through the Scott Memorial Library, including digital textbooks, online journals, and research databases.
She is a board-certified adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. She is director of the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program and assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University. Her scholarly interests include neuro critical care, brain injury, advanced practice issues, and global health. Dr. Harris is an active member of numerous professional organizations including the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and the Neurocritical Care Society. Additionally, she is certified in surgical first assist and neuroscience.
She is a dual certified family and adult nurse practitioner. At Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Rainer is the coordinator for the family nurse practitioner program and appointed as an assistant professor. Her scholarly interests include urgent care, interprofessional education, geriatric pain management, and health policy. She is chair of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association’s Government Relations Committee, and she is an ongoing content reviewer for the Journal of Emergency Nursing. Dr. Rainer is also an active member of many professional organizations including the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty.
Most students complete the post-master’s certificates in one to two years depending on part or full-time status. Upon graduation, students may spend an additional three to six months preparing for their board-certification exam, while also applying and interviewing for new jobs. Generally, the entire process of earning a post-master’s certificate from Thomas Jefferson University takes one to two and a half years.
For RNs with an ADN degree
For RNs with a BSN degree
For RNs with an MSN degree
*Also requires a non-nursing bachelor's degree; please see the "Online Accelerated MSN - NP" programs page for more details.