Registered nurses (RNs) in the Pine Tree State seeking increased professional autonomy and responsibilities may pursue careers as nurse practitioners (NPs). NPs not only enjoy a significantly higher salary than RNs, but also are expected to have a thriving employment climate in the years to come. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017) reported that the 14,200 RNs in Maine (ME) earned an average annual salary of $65,890; for comparison, the 1,150 NPs in the state received a 34 percent higher mean salary ($100,100). Also, the BLS (May 2017) estimated that there would be a 36 percent jump in NP job openings nationwide between 2016 and 2026, resulting in the addition of 56,100 fresh positions in this field; Projections Central (2018) added that the predicted growth in Maine’s NP opportunities would be slightly lower during that time period (26.4 percent), but both the national and state-based projections are much higher than the average growth anticipated across all occupations during the same decade (7 percent). In sum, nurse practitioners in Maine and beyond have a bright career outlook.
Furthermore, the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association (MNPA) offers these healthcare professionals a wealth of resources for their invaluable service, including educational conferences, legal advocacy, an active job board, newsletters, and other tools to support NPs of this state.
How does one prepare for this lucrative and fulfilling occupation? Aspiring NPs in Maine typically pursue one of two types of graduate degrees: a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP); while the former provides a great degree of knowledge and experience, the latter, a DNP, is often the choice of those who hope to work in academia, or who wish to utilize their healthcare experience in order to work in a management-level capacity. It’s worth noting that as of October 2018, an MSN was the entry-level academic degree to qualify for credentialing in this field, although this may change in coming years as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (April 2016) and others actively campaign to adopt the DNP as the preferred level of NP preparation.
Whether an MSN or a DNP, prospective NPs in Maine have varied institutional options to earn their degree. Some people prefer the traditional brick-and-mortar campus experience, while others are opting for an increasingly popular option: attending an online NP program in Maine. Distance-based graduate programs in nursing combine web-based coursework with clinical experiences in a student’s home community. There are currently three schools in ME with online nurse practitioner programs: St. Joseph’s College of Standish, Husson University of Bangor, and Purdue University Global. That said, there are varied online NP schools throughout the country which admit Maine-based students, which are discussed below.
This guide examines the online NP programs in Maine, as well as how to join this well-paying career and secure all necessary national and regional credentialing.
While pathways to becoming an NP in Maine vary, there are some commonalities. All aspiring NPs in the state must achieve an undergraduate degree in nursing; pass the NCLEX-RN examination; graduate from an accredited NP program; get national certification in one’s chosen specialization; and finally apply for APRN licensure through the Maine State Board of Nursing.
Here is one possible pathway to joining this high-growth career in Maine:
STEP 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree (2-4 years)
The first step to becoming an NP in Maine is earning an undergraduate degree. Maine law requires an individual to hold at least a two-year professional degree in nursing in order to become an RN, which is mandatory to be eligible for future licensure as an NP. Furthermore, to be offered admission to a graduate program, a candidate must have either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), although the latter is often preferred for admission to an online NP program. Four-year BSN programs include foundational coursework in areas such as anatomy & physiology; nursing theory; chemistry; microbiology; and statistics, many of which are curricular prerequisites for graduate programs in nursing. Fortunately, the Maine State Board of Nursing provides a list of approved undergraduate programs. Students are also advised to seek out programs accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN), the two main program-approval entities for NPs. To discover the importance of accreditation, check out the relevant section below in this guide.
STEP 2: Obtain RN Licensure & Nursing Experience (1-2 years)
After obtaining an undergraduate degree in nursing, aspiring NPs typically apply through the Maine State Board of Nursing to take the NCLEX-RN examination, the national credentialing test for RNs. The application requires the following:
Once an individual is licensed as an RN, he or she should begin working in the field as soon as possible; many NP programs (including those offered online) prefer applicants to have at least one year of nursing experience, ideally in the candidate’s intended NP specialization (e.g., women’s health, acute care, etc).
STEP 3: Complete a Graduate NP Education (2-4+ years)
Upon receiving RN licensure and working in the field of nursing for at least a year, candidates must get a graduate education in nursing. As mentioned in the introduction, there are two main degree types available: a master of science in nursing (MSN) and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). The MSN programs typically take two years (post-BSN) and focus on one of six specializations: women’s health, psychiatric-mental health, adult-gerontology (primary or acute care), pediatrics (primary or acute care), family care, and neonatal care.
It is important to note that the Maine BoN also provides a list of approved graduate nursing programs statewide. For those interested in becoming licensed as an NP in Maine, it is highly recommended to pick one on the list or a school accredited by one of the aforementioned organizations: the CCNE or the ACEN.
STEP 4: Achieve National NP Certification (up to 1 year)
There are varied organizations offering national NP certification—a process requiring a passing score on a comprehensive examination—which vary by specialization. These include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), or the National Certification Corporation (NCC). To learn about how to pursue a career in a specific specialty, please visit the ‘specialization’ section of the main online NP schools page.
STEP 5: Obtain Maine Licensure as a Nurse Practitioner (up to 1 year)
After an aspiring NP has successfully completed a graduate degree and is nationally certified, he or she must then submit an application to the ME State BoN. Application materials include a $100 fee; a signed passport-style photograph; a declaration of legal residence; official university transcripts; proof of national certification; and a letter from one’s primary and secondary supervisors in a healthcare setting attesting to at least 24 months of qualifying professional experience.
There are three institutions in Maine with online graduate programs in the field of nursing: St. Joseph’s College, Husson University, and Purdue University Global. The following discussion includes admission requirements for these institutions specifically and some details about what other online NP schools might expect from candidates.
Undergraduate RequirementsAll aspiring NPs interested in pursuing an online degree through St. Joseph’s, for example, will need to have a BSN from an accredited institution with proof of having completed courses in statistics and health assessment. A BSN is a common prerequisite for all online NP programs, although there are some online ‘bridge’ (i.e., RN-to-MSN) programs available. Please note that these generally require more on-campus dates than post-BSN programs.
GPA and Test ScoresIn addition to submitting proof of a BSN from an accredited institution, aspiring students must also have had at least a 3.0 GPA. This is a common requirement for online MSN programs, and many online DNP programs call for candidates with at least a 3.2 GPA.
Other Admissions RequirementsFinally, applicants may be asked for additional materials such as references from peers, supervisors, or prior faculty; a resume or CV; a career or personal statement; and an active, unencumbered RN license. Students may also be asked to submit to a criminal background check or provide test scores (GRE, MAT, TOEFL); proof of health insurance or immunizations; or a candidate interview (video or in-person).
As previously mentioned, the Maine State Board of Nursing provides a list of approved programs for those interested in pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. All three of the below Maine-based NP schools are included on this list.
Additionally, all three nursing schools have accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), one of the two predominant accreditation organizations in the country. The other one is the aforementioned Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Those interested in working as an NP in Maine in the future should consider applying to an accredited program, as this is generally one of the prerequisites for certification. The program-approval entities evaluate several factors in their process such as the quality of faculty or facilities; program finance management; comprehensiveness of curricula; and student outcomes, among other measures. To learn in-depth how programs and institutions are accredited, check out the ‘accreditation’ section of the online nurse practitioner program page.
Dr. McGuire is a professor and chair of the department of nursing at St. Joseph’s College of Maine, where he also serves as the nurse practitioner program director. Impressively, he’s a fellow for the American Heart Association; the chair of the Program Committee at the Western Institute of Nursing; an ambassador to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses; and a nurse researcher at the University of California in Los Angeles. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles and publications, including ‘Psychological Distress and Cardiovascular Disease’ (Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management 2015) and ‘Depression and Stroke’ (Audio-Digest 2015).
Dr. Belanger is an associate professor of nursing at St. Joseph’s College of Maine, where she serves as the co-director for the graduate nursing programs. She has held several prestigious positions, working as the vice president of nursing and division leader of acute care services at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, ME, and as the senior research scholar and ethics liaison at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She has conducted several presentations throughout her career, including the 2011 Friends of Nursing keynote address (Healthcare is Changing, Are We?) and the 2010 graduate commencement address at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado (Changing the Face of the Mountain).
St. Joseph’s College located in Standish, ME, offers an online MSN and post-master's certificate in adult gerontology acute care nursing and family nursing. Students in any of these paths will complete 3 practicums in their area of specialty. The FNP specialization does not require any campus visits so it is 100% online. The AGACNP specialization requires one campus skills session during a practicum course which will count for 24 hours of clinical time. Core courses for the MSN specializations include Nursing Informatics; Nursing Research Methods: Utilization for EBP; Organizational and Systems Leadership; Advanced Health Assessment; and more. Courses meet once a month in a synchronous format for 1-3 hours, while the rest of the coursework is asynchronous. Courses follow a 15-week time span. The FNP track is offered in 41 states, and the AGACNP track is offered in 42. Note that Saint Joseph's College also offers two dual degrees online: MSN/MHA and MSN/MBA, each of which are 60 credits.
Husson University of Bangor, offers an online MSN and post-master's certificate option for family and community nurse practitioners and family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. The 48-credit FCNP degree program includes courses such as Socio-Cultural Perception of Addiction and Population Health; Family Health I--Adult-Gero Health; Family Health II--Pediatrics; Family Health III--Women's Health; and Family Health IV--Integrating Primary Care. The 50-credit PMHNP MSN includes courses such as Neurobiology; Advanced Mental Health Assessment Across the Lifespan; Family Psychiatric Nursing I-II; and Strategy & Analysis of Organizational Process. Post-master's certificates eliminate 18 credits from these totals. These programs require two, 1-week summer intensive sessions on campus.
Purdue University Global has campuses across the country, including one in Augusta, ME and another in Lewiston, ME. Purdue Global is part of the Purdue University system and focuses on working adults who seek to advance their education and balance work, family, and school. They offer an online MSN degree with specializations in adult gerontology acute care nursing, family nursing, and adult gerontology primary care nursing. Two post-master's certificates are also offered: adult gerontology primary care and family nurse practitioner primary care. These programs are 100% online, but clinicals must be completed at an approved location. Note that the adult gerontology acute care MSN degree requires one, 2.5 day intensive on the home campus in Indianapolis. Students from the following states are not allowed to enroll at Purdue University Global: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia.
Please note that the University of Maine also provides an MSN program in the family nursing specialization, but this program is hybrid, offering a combination of online and classroom formats. There is an abundance of additional online NP programs located in other states, accommodating every point of academic entry, specialization, and degree. To discover the options, please visit the online NP schools page.
Unlike many other states, Maine does not specifically require aspiring NPs to perform a certain number of preceptorship hours before they will be eligible to become licensed. That being said, NPs will need to complete clinical hours in order to finish their graduate degree. It’s worth noting that APRN licensure applicants in Maine must have 24 months of verifiable experience to be considered for full NP licensure. Please check out the bylaws on the Maine Board of Nursing website for the full details.
As a final note, Maine boasts a ‘full practice’ environment for NPs, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Ultimately, this means that both state practice and licensure law allows for all NPs to evaluate patients and perform other nursing duties under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing. Therefore, NPs in this state enjoy relative professional autonomy and responsibilities compared to those working in ‘reduced’ or ‘restricted’ practice conditions.