Nurse practitioners (NPs) deliver many of the same services as physicians, providing quality and cost-effective care. The demand for NPs has surged across the country in response to several healthcare challenges. The coming physician shortage, rising rates of chronic conditions, and the aging population's medical needs contribute to the growing importance of NPs.
According to the U.S. News & World Report, NPs rank fourth nationally in best healthcare jobs. Workforce projections indicate a 38.3% growth in NP employment in Illinois, with the state adding 760 openings each year from 2016-26.
This page describes NP career and salary prospects and provides information on NP programs in Illinois. Because the pathways to enter this advanced nursing specialty vary by state, prospective NPs should thoroughly explore NP programs and licensing requirements.
Individuals can consult this resource for an overview of NP training and credentials. To learn more about specialization opportunities, learners can browse this guide.
Keep reading to explore some of the best nurse practitioner programs in Illinois.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Based in Illinois
A master of science in nursing (MSN) is the minimum educational requirement to enter advanced practice nursing specialties in Illinois. While several NP programs in Illinois offer online degrees, aspiring NPs should carefully research their intended schools. Some programs require on-campus residencies or hybrid classes that include in-person attendance. Certification in an advanced practice nursing specialty requires a graduate degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
The most common NP specializations include family, adult gerontology, women's health, psychiatric mental health, pediatrics, and nurse management leadership.
Although requirements vary by school, prospective NPs in Illinois need a bachelor of science in nursing, a valid registered nurse (RN) license, and at least one year of RN experience.
MSN degrees, which take approximately three years to complete, require training in a population-focused specialization and at least 500 hours of clinical experience. The most common NP specializations include family, adult gerontology, women's health, psychiatric mental health, pediatrics, and nurse management leadership.
While both MSN and DNP programs prepare graduates for clinical practice and certification, a DNP provides additional training in organizational management, healthcare policy, and information systems.
As opportunities expand in nursing leadership and education, many NPs pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). While both MSN and DNP programs prepare graduates for clinical practice and certification, a DNP provides additional training in organizational management, healthcare policy, and information systems. Learners may complete a DNP in 3-4 years, depending on the program and their nursing experience.
The projected employment rate for nurse practitioners in Illinois ranks well above the rates for neighboring states. Although the $105,800 average annual salary for NPs in Illinois falls below the national mean, compensation for the state's NPs remains competitive with nearby Midwestern states. The state's highest paid NPs earn annual salaries over $130,000.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, healthcare and social assistance ranks as the state's second fastest-growing industry, projecting a 13.5% expansion from 2016-26. By that year, the state anticipates 10,941 NP positions, an increase of 3,032 from 2016. Family practice, the most common specialization focus, accounts for more than 12% of all advanced practice nurses in Illinois. Almost a quarter of Illinois NPs work in hospital inpatient settings.
Licensure for Nurse Practitioners in Illinois
Students enrolled in NP programs in Illinois planning to apply for their advanced practice nursing license should check the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) for current information on requirements. In addition to a valid RN license and a graduate degree, Illinois requires applicants to complete examination-based national certification for their specialization. The state approves certifications from several credentialing organizations, including the AANP and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
As a restricted-practice authority state, Illinois requires NPs to enter into a collaborative agreement with a supervising physician, limiting the specific treatment and procedures they may provide.
The Illinois NP application requires a criminal background check, official transcripts, authorization to forward proof of national certification, and a $125 fee. License-seekers may take up to three years after the date of their initial application to complete all requirements. Applicants who have completed their graduate degree but have not acquired national certification may request a temporary permit if registered for a certification examination. Once approved, NPs must renew licenses every two years.
As a restricted-practice authority state, Illinois requires NPs to enter into a collaborative agreement with a supervising physician, limiting the specific treatment and procedures they may provide. However, the state has recently lessened restrictions on the scope of practice for some NPs. Certified NPs, who have acquired at least 4,000 clinical hours under a physician's supervision and a minimum of 250 continuing education (CE) hours, may hold practice authority without a collaborative agreement.
Other Requirements for Illinois Nurse Practitioners
NPs seeking prescriptive authority must have completed 45 hours in pharmacology as part of their graduate program, and five additional hours each year to maintain prescriptive authority. Illinois licensing regulations distinguish between controlled substances and legend, or prescription, drugs. While Illinois does not require a license for legend drugs, NPs who plan to prescribe controlled substances must apply for the Mid-Level Practitioner Controlled Substances License through the IDFPR.
NPs seeking prescriptive authority must have completed 45 hours in pharmacology as part of their graduate program, and five additional hours each year to maintain prescriptive authority.
For license renewal, certified NPs in Illinois must complete 80 contact hours every two years. Of the total required hours, 50 must be in the practice area, 20 in pharmacology, and 10 in safe opioid prescribing. NP license renewal requires one CE hour in sexual harassment prevention. The IDFPR accepts CE credit from any ANCC-accredited provider. NPs must also maintain their national certification by fulfilling the CE hours required by their credentialing organization.
Information for Out-Of-State Nurse Practitioners
Illinois does not participate in the Nursing Licensure Compact, a shared agreement that allows licensed nurses to practice in compact states. However, the IDFPR grants NP licenses to out-of-state RNs who meet all Illinois requirements for advanced practice nursing. Nurses holding valid licenses in another state within the past five years may apply for an Illinois license after they provide official verification of their license from the original state board, the current state, if different, and any other state where they have worked during the previous five years.
Prescriptive authority and practice regulations differ by state. Because Illinois requires a separate license to prescribe controlled substances, NPs who plan to enter collaborative agreements that grant prescriptive authority should familiarize themselves with IDFPR licensure requirements.
Use this guide to learn more about scope of practice and prescriptive authority requirements in Illinois compared to other states.
Resources for Illinois Nurse Practitioners
Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing ISAPN advocates on behalf of advanced practice nurses in Illinois. The organization sponsors an annual conference, CE workshops, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. The society's career center features employment listings and a free resume review.
American Nurses Association Illinois This association for RNs offers a joint membership with the American Nurses Association (ANA). Benefits include access to the ANA online library and opportunities to purchase long-term care and term life insurance.
Illinois Board of Nursing The board regulates more than one million professionals, including healthcare providers. The IDFPR administers licensure, renewal, and reinstatement regulations for RNs, licensed practical nurses, and advanced practice nurses.
Illinois Healthcare Action Coalition This organization works with other state action coalitions to improve healthcare equity by strengthening the nursing profession. Its Campaign for Action promotes nurses in leadership roles, improves nursing education, and increases diversity within the profession.