Guide to NP Certification

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To provide patient care, nurse practitioners need to be both licensed and certified. Licenses enable one to practice as a nurse practitioner, whereas certifications demonstrate one’s proficiency in a given specialty. This article elucidates the certification process and offers an in-depth look at the NP certification exam required for each population-focus.

NP Certification Requirements

As a recently graduated nurse practitioner, your first step is to get certified. Licenses are awarded by a state, while certifications are awarded by a national organization. For example, a psychiatric nurse practitioner living in Arizona is licensed by the state of Arizona and certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Most states will not license a nurse practitioner unless he or she is also nationally certified in their population-focus (e.g., psychiatry).

There are five different nurse practitioner certification boards in the United States, each of which award certifications across different population-foci:

Each certification board differs in which specialties they certify and the process to obtain the certification. The table below organizes the certification process for each certifying body. To get started, find your desired certification in the “population-focus” column. Then, read the requirements carefully and reference the organization’s website, certification manual, or test preparation resources for further details.

Please note, family, pediatric primary care, and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners can choose to become certified through either the ANCC or the AANPCP. These nurse practitioners can choose which board they prefer, but they cannot be certified through both. To make this decision, compare the costs and requirements, and reach out to respected people in your field for their opinion.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Population Focus Renewal Cycle & Cost Requirements
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Family Pediatric Primary Care Psychiatric-Mental Health
Every five years $270 for an ANA member $395 for a non-ANA member $340 for an AANP, GAPNA, or NGNA members
  • RN license
  • Master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in that population focus from an accredited program
  • Minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in that population focus
  • School transcript that demonstrates completion of advanced physiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology courses
  • Validation of Education form
  • Successful completion of a competency-based, 200-question exam

For additional information, see the General Testing & Renewal Handbook

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board(PNCB)

Population Focus Renewal Cycle & Cost Requirements
Pediatric Primary Care Pediatric Acute Care
Every seven years
$385
Note: If you wish to apply for both the Pediatric Primary Care and Acute Care certifications at the same time, the cost is $600
  • RN license
  • Master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in that population focus from an accredited program
  • Minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in that population focus
  • School transcript that demonstrates completion of advanced physiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology courses
  • Successful completion of a competency-based, 175-question exam

National Certification Corporation(NCC)

Population Focus Renewal Cycle & Cost Requirements
Neonatal Women’s Health-Gender Related
Every three years $325 to apply and $275 for testing
  • RN license
  • Master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in that population focus from an accredited program
  • PDF file of diploma
  • PDF file of official transcript
  • Successful completion of a 175-question, competency-based exam

For additional information, see the NCC Certification Examination Handbook

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board(AANPCB)

Population Focus Renewal Cycle & Cost Requirements
Family Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
Every five years $240 for AANP members $315 for non-members
  • RN license
  • Master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in that population focus from an accredited program
  • Minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in that population focus
  • School transcript that demonstrates completion of advanced physiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology courses
  • Successful completion of a competency-based, 150-question exam

For additional information, please see the FNP AGNP Certification Candidate Handbook

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses(AACN)

Population Focus Renewal Cycle & Cost Requirements
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
Every five years $255 for AACN members $360 for non-members
  • RN license
  • Master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in that population focus from an accredited program
  • Minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in that population focus
  • School transcript that demonstrates completion of advanced physiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology courses
  • Successful completion of a competency-based, 175-question exam

For additional information, please see the AACN General Testing & Certification Guide

NP Certification Exam Guides

As noted in the tables above, each certification requires the successful completion of a competency-based exam. These exams differ by certifying organization and by population-focus. The table below is organized by population-focus and includes the critical information and resources needed to pass each exam.

Please note, family, pediatric primary care, and adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners can chose to become certified through either the ANCC or the AANPCP. Exam details for both certifying bodies are included, but be sure to only submit an application to one or the other.

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) $270 for ANA member
$395 for non-ANA member
$340 for an AANP, GAPNA, or NGNA members
Every five years 200 Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review, Third Edition: Fast Facts and Practice Questions; ANCC Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Test Prep Course ANCC General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions from ANCC website
  • APRN Core Competencies
    • – Advanced physiology
    • – Advanced pharmacology
    • – Advanced physical assessment
  • Clinical Practice
    • – Clinical decision-making
    • – Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Role-Professional Responsibility
    • – Scope and standards of practice
    • – Research and evidence-based practice
    • – Education
    • – Patient-provider relationship
  • Healthcare Systems
    • – Healthcare policy
    • – Quality improvement principles

Further details found in the ANCC Test Content Outline handbook

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care American Nurses Credentialing Center (AACN) $255 for AACN members
$360 for non-members
Every five years 175 AACN Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP Test Prep Course AACN General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions from AACN Handbook
  • Clinical Judgement
    • – Cardiovascular
    • – Pulmonary
    • – Endocrine
    • – Hematology/immunology/oncology
    • – Gastrointestinal
    • – Renal/genitourinary
    • – Integumentary
    • – Musculoskeletal
    • – Neurology
    • – Psychosocial/behavioral/cognitive health
    • – Factors influencing health status
    • – Multisystem

Professional Caring and Ethical Practice

Further details found in the AACN Exam Handbook

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) $270 for an ANA member
$395 for a non-ANA member
$340 for AANP, GAPNA, or NGNA members
Every five years 200 Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Review; Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP Test Prep Course ANCC General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions from ANCC website
  • Foundations of Advanced Practice Nursing
    • – Advanced physiology
    • – Advanced pharmacology
    • – Advanced health assessment
    • – Population health
    • – Considerations for diverse populations
  • Professional Roles
    • – Translational Science
    • – Legal and ethical issues
    • – Scope and standards of practice
    • – Quality improvement and safety
    • – Leadership, advocacy, and collaboration
    • – Health policy
  • Independent Practice
    • – Advanced care planning
    • – Health promotion and disease prevention
    • – Illness and disease management
    • – Diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision making

Professional Caring and Ethical Practice

Further details found in the ANCC Test Content Outline book

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) $240 for AANP members
$315 for non-members
Every five years 150 Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Review; Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP Test Prep Course AANPCB Candidate Handbook Sample questions found in the Candidate Handbook (pg. 31-32)
  • Domain I
    • – Assessment
    • – Diagnosis
    • – Planning
    • – Evaluation
  • Domain II
    • – Adolescen
    • – Young adult and adult
    • – Older adult
    • – Frail elderly

A detailed list of knowledge areas and procedures can be found in the Candidate Handbook (pg. 24-25)

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Family American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) $270 for an ANA member
$395 for a non-ANA member
Every five years 200 Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review, Third Edition: Fast Facts and Practice Questions; ANCC Family NP Test Prep Course ANCC General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions from the ANCC website
  • Foundations of Advanced Practice Nursing
    • – Advanced physiology
    • – Advanced pharmacology
    • – Advanced health assessment
    • – Population Health
    • – Considerations for diverse populations
  • Professional Roles
    • – Translational Science
    • – Legal and ethical issues
    • – Scope and standards of practice
    • – Quality improvement and safety
    • – Leadership, advocacy, and collaboration
    • – Health policy
  • Independent Practice
    • – Advanced care planning
    • – Health promotion and disease prevention
    • – Illness and disease management
    • – Diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision making

Further details found in the ANCC Test Content Outline book

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Family American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) $240 for AANP members
$315 for non-members
Every five years 150 Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review, Third Edition: Fast Facts and Practice Questions; AANP Family NP Test Prep Course AANPCB Candidate Handbook Sample questions found in theCandidate Handbook (pg. 31-32)
  • Domain I
    • – Assessment
    • – Diagnosis
    • – Planning
    • – Evaluation
  • Domain II
    • – Prenatal
    • – Pediatric (including newborn and infant)
    • – Adolescent (early and late)
    • – Adult
    • – Geriatric
    • – Frail elderly

A detailed list of knowledge areas and procedures is in the Candidate Handbook (pg. 27-28)

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Neonatal National Certification Corporation (NCC) $325 Every three years 150 Merenstein & Gardner’s Handbook of Neonatal Intensive Care NCC Certification Examination Catalogue
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Candidate Guide
Sample questions found in the Candidate Guide (pg. 18)
  • General assessment
    • – Perinatal
    • – Neonatal
    • – Family integration
    • – Discharge planning and follow-up
  • General management
    • – Pharmacology
    • – Nutrition, fluids, and electrolytes
    • – Thermoregulation
    • – Resuscitation and stabilization
  • The disease process
    • – Embryology
    • – Physiology
    • – Pathophysiology
    • – Resuscitation and stabilization

A detailed content outline can be found in the NCC Exam Handbook (pg. 16); additional details can be found in the Candidate Guide (pg. 7)

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Pediatric Primary Care American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) $270 for an ANA member
$395 for a non-ANA member
Every five years 200 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification Review Guide: Primary Care; Pediatric Primary Care NP Test Prep Course
ANCC General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions on the ANCC website
  • Foundations of Advanced Practice Nursing
    • – Advanced physiology
    • – Advanced pharmacology
    • – Advanced health assessment
    • – Population Health
    • – Considerations for diverse populations
  • Professional Roles
    • – Translational Science
    • – Legal and ethical issues
    • – Scope and standards of practice
    • – Quality improvement and safety
    • – Leadership, advocacy, and collaboration
    • – Health policy
  • Independent Practice
    • – Advanced care planning
    • – Health promotion and disease prevention
    • – Illness and disease management
    • – Diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision making

Further details found in the ANCC Test Content Outline book

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Pediatric Primary Care Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNBC) $385 Every seven years 175 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification Review Guide: Primary Care; Pediatric Primary Care NP Test Prep Course Exam FAQs Can be purchased on the PNCB website
  • Health promotion
    • – Infants
    • – Toddlers and preschoolers
    • – School-age children
    • – Adolescents
    • – Young adults
  • Assessment and diagnosis
    • – History and physical examination
    • – Diagnostic testing and screening
    • – Analysing information
    • – Diagnosis
  • Management
    • – Therapeutic interventions
    • – Procedures
    • – Counseling and education
    • – Collaboration and referral
    • – Case management
    • – Evaluation and follow-up
  • Professional issues
    • – Leadership and professional development
    • – Research
    • – Business management
    • – Legal and ethical issues

Further details can be found in the PNCB Certification Content Outline document

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Pediatric Acute Care Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) $385 Every seven years 175 Lippincott Certification Review: Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Exam FAQs Can be purchased on the PNCB website
  • Assessment
    • – Health history
    • – Physical examination
  • Diagnosis
    • – Age-specific diagnoses
    • – Pathophysiology
    • – Pharmacology
    • – Psychological responses
  • Management
    • – Implementation, evaluation, and revision
    • – Education, collaboration, and referral
  • Professional Practice Role
    • – Advocacy
    • – Legal and ethical practices
    • – Quality
    • – Economics of healthcare

Further details can be found in the PNCB Certification Content Outline document

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Psychiatric-Mental Health American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) $270 for an ANA member
$395 for a non-ANA member
$340 for an AANP member
Every five years 200 Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification Review; ANCC Psychiatric-Mental Health NP Test Prep Course
ANCC General Testing & Certification Guide Sample questions on ANCC website
  • APRN Core Competencies
    • – Advanced physiology
    • – Advanced pharmacology
    • – Advanced physical assessment
  • Clinical Practice
    • – Clinical decision making
    • – Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Role-Professional Responsibility
    • – Scope and standards of practice
    • – Research and evidence-based practice
    • – Education
    • – Patient-provider relationship
  • Health Care Systems
    • – Healthcare policy
    • – Quality improvement principles

Further details can be found in the PANCC Test Content Outline book

Certifying Organization Cost Renewal Cycle Number of Questions Study Resources Organization’s Guide Practice Questions Content Outline
Women’s Health-Gender Related National Certification Corporation (NCC) $325 Every three years 150 Midwifery & Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Certification Review Guide NCC Certification Examination Catalogue
WHNP Candidate Guide
Sample questions in the Candidate Guide (pg. 17)
  • Physical assessment and diagnostic testing
    • – Health history
    • – Laboratory procedures
  • Primary care
    • – Health promotion
    • – Patient counseling
    • – Management of health problems
  • Gynecology
    • – Fertility control
    • – Male issues
    • – Gynecologic disorders
  • Obstetrics
    • – Pregnancy
    • – Prenatal care
    • – Fetal well-being
    • – Postpartum
  • Professional issues
    • – Research and evidence-based practice
    • – Legal, ethical, and safety issues
  • Pharmacology

A detailed content outline can be found in the NCC Exam Handbook (pg. 16); further details can be found in the Candidate Guide (pg. 8)

Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Author

Melissa DeCapua is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner who graduated from Vanderbilt University. She has a background in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as psychosomatic medicine. Uniquely, she also possesses a bachelor’s degree in studio arts, which she uses to enhance patient care, promote the nursing profession, and solve complex problems. Melissa currently works as the Healthcare Strategist at a Seattle-based health information technology company where she guides product development by combining her clinical background and creative thinking. She is a strong advocate for empowering nurses, and she fiercely believes that nurses should play a pivotal role in shaping modern health care. For more about Melissa, check out her blog www.melissadecapua.com and follow her on Twitter @melissadecapua.