Registered Nurses in Georgia who are ready to take their career to a new level may want to consider enrolling in one of the state’s online nurse practitioner programs. These programs allow nurses to keep working while taking courses online on their own schedule, culminating in an MSN or DNP degree and eligibility for certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
There are several online NP programs available from universities in Georgia including South University, Georgia Southern University, Clayton State University, and Columbus State University. As online learning becomes more popular, aspiring nurse practitioners should expect the number of programs to grow. Nurses who have succeeded academically in the past and want more responsibility, better salary potential, and more autonomy as caregivers should consider applying to an online nurse practitioner program in Georgia.
Not everyone follows the same path to become a nurse practitioner, but there are a few non-negotiable steps to take along the way. It is important to note that some of the following steps may happen concurrently, particularly for programs such as an ADN to MSN bridge program. Depending on the path a nurse practitioner chooses, it can take between 6 and 8 years for a high school graduate to become a nurse practitioner.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)After graduating from high school, aspiring nurse practitioners need to take the next step in their education and earn an undergraduate degree in nursing. If you know you want to be a nurse practitioner, it is most efficient to choose a 4-year university where you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. However, if that is not feasible, you may also choose to earn an Associate of Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a 2-year college.
STEP 2: Apply for RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)New applicants for an RN license in Georgia must submit an application to the Georgia Board of Nursing along with a completed background check. Graduates of Board-approved nursing programs will have their transcripts submitted by their respective schools. Graduates from out of state schools must submit a paper application along with their official transcripts. The application should be approved (or denied) within 15 business days, at which point the applicant is eligible to take the NCLEX exam. Upon successful completion of that exam, nurses are granted their RN license, which is a prerequisite for becoming a nurse practitioner after further education.
STEP 3: Apply for and Complete an Approved Graduate Program (duration: 2 – 4 years)Although many nurses choose to work as an RN before pursuing a graduate degree, this is not generally a requirement for NP programs. Nurses may choose to pursue either a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). An MSN can take a few as two years to complete, if the nurse is able to dedicate full-time hours to the program while a doctoral level program takes much longer. Those nurses who have earned only an Associate’s Degree can consider applying to an ADN to MSN bridge program in order to simultaneously pursue a BSN and MSN.
Note that you do not necessarily have to be licensed as an RN in the state of Georgia in order to attend a graduate program there. However, it will be necessary to have your RN license endorsed to Georgia should you choose to apply for your APRN authorization.
STEP 4: Complete Clinical Experience as an APRN (duration: 3 months)If more than 4 years have elapsed since a nurse graduated from an approved program, he or she must submit proof of 3 months/500 hours of work in an APRN capacity. If less than 4 years have elapsed, this step is not necessary.
STEP 5: Submit Application for APRN Authorization (duration: less than 1 year)Once a nurse has completed an MSN or at least 500 hours of work as an APRN, he or she can apply for APRN authorization in Georgia. The applicant must submit proof of experience along with an application, college transcripts, and verification of national certification in his or her chosen specialty.
STEP 6: Submit an Application for Prescriptive Authority (duration: depends on physician)
In Georgia, a nurse practitioner’s prescriptive authority is determined by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. APRNs must submit a Nurse Protocol Agreement. The NP must have prescriptive authority delegated to him or her by a supervising physician. Nurse practitioners may either be authorized to write prescriptions themselves or to merely call in prescriptions under a physician’s name. Both the delegating physician and nurse practitioner must sign the protocol, at which point it becomes immediately active.
Admission to graduate nursing programs can vary widely from one to the next, but there are some commonalities that may be helpful to know during the process. Applications are largely accepted online. While it is common for a school to have two admissions dates, typically one in the Spring and one in the Fall, rolling admissions throughout the year is rare. That means it is important to ensure that your application materials are in order with enough time to submit them for the semester in which you wish to begin courses. Applications for fall are generally due towards the beginning of the year (February or March) while Spring applications are due towards the middle of the year (May or June) to allow plenty of time for review.
As such, application materials and expectations are fairly uniform across nurse practitioner programs. In addition to an online application with basic personal information, there is usually a statement of purpose or essay required, in addition to letters of recommendation from previous professors or employers. The majority of online programs in Georgia have a minimum GPA as well, usually 3.0. Most of the programs also require that applicants take the GRE and submit their scores along with their application. Although there is no minimum score required, it will be considered along with the rest of the application materials to get a full picture of the applicant.
For some programs, notably Clayton State University, the GRE requirement is waived for those nurses who can demonstrate certain experience, such as 3 years of acute clinical care, a previous graduate degree or a GPA of 3.2 or higher. For a full accounting of these specific exceptions, be sure to visit the CSU application information online.
The Georgia Board of Nursing maintains a list of all nursing programs that they have approved, including Associate’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, RN to BSN, Master’s and Doctoral level programs. This approval list includes online programs.
Additional accreditation comes from either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Note that neither of these accreditations automatically confers approval from the Georgia Board of Nursing. Be sure to check the list of approved schools to ensure your program is listed.
Lora E. Crowe, PhD, MSN, BSN is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the Georgia College & State University College of Health Sciences School of Nursing. She previously acted as the MSN Curriculum Coordinator for the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and currently teaches graduate nursing courses utilizing her many years of experience as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has developed research in such areas as primary care of special needs infants and nurse attitudes towards homeless patients.
Amelia Malcom, DNP, FNP, is an Assistant Professor at Brenau University where she teaches in the nurse practitioner program. Dr. Malcom has particular research interest in Critical Care, specifically End-of-Life Care and brings that interest to her teaching.
South University in Savannah offers a host of different opportunities for aspiring nursing students. To be sure, South University offers a post-master's certificate program, a BSN to MSN program, and an RN to MSN program with specializations in family nursing and adult-gerontological primary care. Each of these programs is offered entirely online with practicums completed where students live and work, and the programs are accredited by the CCNE. The AGNP MSN consists of 56 credits and requires completion of three practicums including adults and gerontology, women's health, and primary care. The family nurse practitioner MSN consists of 62 credits and requires completion of four practicums which cover family adult health, women's health, pediatrics family health, and primary care family health. Other degree paths have varying credit and practicum requirements.
South University in Statesboro, offers an online post-master's certificate program with specializations in psychiatric mental health, family nursing, adult gerontology acute care, and adult gerontology primary care. The program is mostly asynchronous with the use of some synchronous activities. The program requires one on-campus graduate intensive during the summer session. Georgia Southern University also offers an online Post-BSN to DNP program in the same four specialties, which includes two on campus learning days per semester while enrolled in the clinical specialty courses (FNP and PHMNP only), as well as the yearly campus graduate intensives during summer sessions which last 4 days and include some online modules (all tracks).
Clayton State University in Morrow, offers an online MSN degree and post-master's certificate with a concentration in family nursing. These programs only accept students from Georgia. For the MSN degree applicants must possess a bachelor of science in nursing degree and an unrestricted Georgia RN license. If students already posses an MSN they will be exempt from 3 courses, but both pathways require 630 hours of clinical experience. Courses for the MSN in family nurse practitioner may include Research for Evidence-Based Nursing; Diagnostic and Clinical Reasoning for Advanced Practice Nurses; Population Health and Emerging Disease; Health Promotion and Problems of Adults and Their Families; and more. The FNP MSN degree consists of 46 credits and 630 hours of clinical experiences. Courses for the Post-Master's FNP Certificate include Pathophysiology for Advanced Practice Nurses; Advanced Health Assessment; Advanced Practice Nursing Roles in Society; Health Promotion of Children and their Families; and more. The certificate requires completion of 40 or more credits and 585 clinical hours. Both programs are offered part-time and full-time. There are 5 campus visits required for the programs.
Columbus State University in Columbus, GA, offers an online MSN degree with a specialization in family nursing. In addition, unlike many other degrees, this program is offered entirely online, meaning students never need to travel to campus in order to graduate. The degree can be obtained in as little as two years when attending full-time and consists of 44 credits. Courses are completely asynchronous meaning there are no scheduled class-times when students must be online to attend and may include Health Promotion of Women and Children; Scientific Underpinnings of the APN Role; Health Care Delivery Models, Economics and Policy; and more. Clinicals are completed in the student's own geographical location, and the program is accredited by the CCNE. Courses begin in the fall and spring.
There are no stringent guidelines as to how many campus visits are required of online nurse practitioner programs in Georgia. While this allows for a certain degree of flexibility, it also means that it is not always clear what a program requires. Further, different professors and instructors may have different expectations depending on the course and the year. As such, we have compiled the most accurate information available in the table below. Note that we use the term "limited" to describe a program's campus visitation requirement when university language around the exact number of campus visits required for a particular NP program is vague, and the actual number of required visits is unavailable. When a program requires frequent campus visitation for in-person interaction, ">3" (for "more than 3") is used. Where an in-person orientation is required, that is included in the "campus visits required" number.
Because an Associate's Degree is the minimum requirement for RN licensure in Georgia, obtaining a BSN can be a hurdle to those RNs that want to further their education and ultimately become nurse practitioners. But a lack of a Bachelor's degree shouldn't stop passionate nurses from moving forward. That's why some online programs offer a bridge option. With intensive study, nurses are able to complete a BSN and MSN degree simultaneously and graduate with the necessary educational foundation to become nurse practitioners.
In Georgia, there are two universities that offer online bridge programs of this nature:
At South University, an Accelerated RN to MSN program is available. Students must complete a total of 227 credit hours, which is significantly more than many BSN to MSN programs. For instance, the MSN program at the same university requires only 56 total credit hours. At a full-time pace, the RN to MSN program can take up to 4 years to complete.
The RN to MSN program is available for both the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner specialty and the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty. Applicants for either program will need to submit an online application. The program has a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, but does not require any graduate entrance exams.
Brenau University offer both standard and accelerated tracks for its RN to MSN programs. The standard track to earn an MSN with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration takes 4 years. The first year is a full-time commitment to earn undergraduate credits while the graduate courses are spread over 3 years of part-time courses. The accelerated program requires full-time commitment for 3 years. It is important to note that the Brenau University program does require that nurses commit one Saturday per month to campus visitation sessions.
Applicants to the program will need to demonstrate a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and must take the GRE examination prior to admission.
The preceptorship is a critical part of a nurse practitioner’s education. With an online training program, it is normal to wonder how you will gain sufficient clinical experience. However, online programs still require that nurses work in a clinical environment for a large portion of their education. Most online programs will help students find a proper preceptorship. If no assistance is provided, students are expected to find and submit the proposed location and supervision nurse practitioner to the program for approval.
In order to begin work as a nurse practitioner in the state of Georgia, nurses must not only successfully complete a master’s degree, at minimum, but also earn board certification in their chosen area of specialty. They can do this through American Nurses Credentialing Center, where nurse practitioner specialties include:
It is important to note that NPs are only eligible for credentialing exams for the same specialty which they studied during graduate school and for which they have logged at least 500 hours of work. The program a nurse attends must be accredited by Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to be eligible for credentialing. There is no further licensing necessary in the state of Georgia to begin work as a nurse practitioner.
The scope of a nurse practitioner’s capabilities are somewhat limited in Georgia. NPs must work under the supervision of a physician and have an agreement with that physician in order to prescribe medications. Nurse practitioners are able to act as a primary care provider under Georgia law, but are not able to sign worker’s compensation claims or death certificates.