Becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) is a great way for working registered nurses to expand the scope of their practice and increase their independence as well as their earning potential. For working nurses, it can be a challenge to find time to attend a nurse practitioner program, but there are online options available that afford quite a bit of flexibility.
Top universities in Florida, including Florida A&M University and Keiser University, have programs that allow students to take courses online, study on their own time, and earn a nurse practitioner MSN or post-master’s certificate. Any nurse that is interested in pursuing an advanced practice MSN degree or certificate should certainly investigate the different online options available in Florida, which we have listed out in a table below, complete with accreditation and program-specific requirements.
Not every aspiring nurse practitioner will take the same path towards his or her ultimate career goal. However, there are certainly milestones that must be met before moving onto the next step. What follows is a basic path to the career, beginning with high school graduation. The variation in duration largely depends on whether the student is able to take courses full-time throughout their education, or opts instead for part-time tracks. The duration can be further extended for those nurses that choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, which can take two years longer than a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Overall, a student graduating from high school can expect to spend at minimum 7 years on the path to becoming a nurse practitioner, and 9 or more to pursue an advanced degree while taking courses part-time.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)Upon graduating from high school, students should be prepared to commit themselves to an undergraduate nursing program. The most common track would have the student complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree immediately, but if that is not possible, students should earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a 2 year program.
STEP 2: Apply for RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)All nurse practitioner applicants must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license. In order to qualify for an RN license in Florida, applicants must have completed an approved nursing program at either the Associate’s or Bachelor’s level. Program approval can come in the form of accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or from other recognized approvals in the case of international programs. Nurses who have never been licensed must apply for an RN license via examination. RNs must also submit to fingerprinting and a background check. Assuming the applicant passes the exam, the process should take less than a year.
STEP 3: Earn a Graduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)In Florida, a Nurse Practitioner must have a Master’s degree or post master’s certificate. Depending on the nurse’s educational background as well as the time available to devote to study, earning an MS in nursing can take at minimum 2 years. Nurses with an Associate’s degree can look for programs with a bridge program that allows them to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree simultaneously, although these programs can take 4 years or more.
STEP 4: Obtain Specialty Certification Credential (duration: less than 1 year)Advance Practice Registered Nurses in Florida must have a specialty credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) that aligns with the nurse practitioner program they completed. In order to earn this credential, nurses must have completed an accredited graduate program, submit an application and fee, and finally sit for the credentialing exam. Nurses who pass the exam will be awarded a credential that is valid for 5 years and must be renewed and maintained with the use of continuing education (CE) credits.
STEP 5: Apply for APRN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)With the specialty credential obtained, nurses in Florida can apply for their Advanced Practice Registered Nurse license. Nurses must provide evidence of their completed graduate program along with their specialty certification, proof of malpractice insurance, criminal background check, and fingerprinting.
The admissions process for online NP programs is not standard across the state of Florida, but there are some commonalities.
Application ProcessApplicants should expect to complete an online application and submit official transcripts from previous nursing programs. Not all programs have GPA minimum requirements, but those that do (such as Florida A&M and the University of Florida) have a minimum of 3.0. Most programs also require a CV or other accounting of previous nursing work experience along with letters of recommendation.
GPA + Test ScoresAbout half of the online nurse practitioner programs in Florida require that applicants complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in addition to the rest of the application.
Most online programs follow the same track as traditional programs with courses in the fall and spring. Some programs only accept applications for the fall semester while others allow applicants to apply for admission in either the fall or spring semester.
Other Common Admissions RequirementsSome of the deadlines for application are somewhat flexible. For instance, at the University of Florida, the deadline for fall semester applications is March 15th. However, applications are actually accepted through June 1st, but only given consideration on an “as available” basis. It is entirely possible that the class for the fall semester will fill up during the initial preferred application period, in which case applications after March 15th will not be considered. Overall, it is best to submit applications as early as possible for the best chance at admissions.
There are two main accrediting bodies for graduate nursing programs: The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). All of the online Florida NP programs featured here are accredited by one of the other, as detailed in our complete list of online NP programs in Florida down below. Nurses applying for their ARNP license in Florida must have attended and completed a program accredited by one of these bodies. ARNP licenses are awarded by the Florida Board of Nursing.
Dr. Susan Schaffer is a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the DNP program at the University of Florida. Her extensive research background includes projects in chronic medication in adults, complementary medicine and in drug/herbal interactions.
Florida A&M University offers both an online MSN and post-master's certificate in nursing. Students in both of these programs must specialize in adult-gerontological primary care, and the program is offered part-time and full-time. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 or above GPA, as well as an unencumbered RN license. A GRE is required for application. Although much of the program is conducted entirely online, students must attend two on campus residencies, as well as completing practicums at an approved site. The FAMU program is accredited by the ACEN with a curriculum influenced by the American Association of the College of Nursing, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, and the Institute of Medicine. Courses include Professional Role Development; Research Methods and Evidence-Based Practice; Clinical Management of Older Adults; and Special Issues Across Adult Life Span.
Keiser University, which has campuses located all throughout Florida, offers an online MSN for students who already posses a bachelor of science in nursing. This program includes a specialization in family nursing, and courses are eight weeks in length. Students take one to two courses in each eight week session. To earn the MSN degree, students must complete 56 semester credit hours, earn a minimum GPA of 3.0, complete 630 clinical hours, and attend two, 4-day on-campus residencies. Courses include Health Systems, Policy and Resource Management; Primary Care of the Family I-IV; Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Professional Development of the Advanced Practice Nurse; and more.
Online programs are not required to report campus visitation expectations in a uniform manner, so it is not always possible to tell what the commitment for travel to campus will be. Further, different instructors have different expectations and syllabi for their courses and as such requirements may change from year to year and from semester to semester.
That being said, a close look at the online nurse practitioner programs available in Florida shows that the majority do have some campus visitation requirements. Review the chart below for a full accounting of these requirements. Where no specific visits are outlined, the table indicates that "limited" visits may be required, which means minimal contact is necessary but some in person requirements should be expected.
A key part of any nurse practitioner program is securing and completing a clinical preceptorship. Without this portion of the degree, nurses will be unable to graduate and therefore unable to obtain their ARNP license in Florida. Online programs, such as those offered by the University of Florida and FAMU, will assist nursing students in finding a preceptor with whom they can work during the course of their studies. These positions may or may not lead to employment upon graduation. If a nurse is outside of the state of Florida, he or she may be required to find a preceptorship on their own, in which case it would need to be approved by program administrators. Online students should be advised that preceptorships may require travel to different locations throughout the duration of the program.
Once a nurse completes his or her NP program, including preceptorship and ANCC credentialing, he or she is eligible to apply for ARNP licensure in the state of Florida, as described earlier.
In terms of practice in the state of Florida, nurse practitioners should expect to have a close relationship with a physician as NPs in the state are required to be supervised by a physician in all cases. NPs may be listed and billed as primary care providers, in addition to the independence to prescribe physical therapy, sign worker’s compensation claims, and issue handicap parking permits. NPs in Florida do not have independent prescribing authority.