Whether you are a practicing Registered Nurse in Maryland or Washington, D.C., or you are a college student looking towards your future, becoming a nurse practitioner can be an exciting and rewarding path. Before you can become a nurse practitioner, you must be sure that you are a truly dedicated to the idea because it does require significant formal education as well as hands on training.
Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners (or NPs) must complete an accredited graduate level program that culminates in either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Both of these paths require significant time and effort. However, once an NP is able to begin independent practice, he or she can usually make more money and enjoy significant autonomy in Maryland or the District of Columbia. Nurse practitioners fill a vital role in the U.S. healthcare system and are likely to continue to be in high demand for many years.
As with most careers, there are a few different ways that someone can become a nurse practitioner. The right path for any individual will depend on their current experience level as well as how much time they have to devote to training. The most common path to becoming a nurse practitioner in either Maryland or Washington, D.C. is outlined below.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)
One prerequisite for all nurse practitioners is an undergraduate degree in nursing. The sooner a prospective NP can earn this degree the better. Initial RN licensure requires only an Associate’s Degree in nursing, which can be completed in 2 years. However, a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree is required by most NP programs, and BSN-to-MSN NP programs tend to require less time to complete than do ADN-to-MSN bridge NP programs. Students applying to either type of NP program should ensure their program has earned accreditation from a recognized body such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), as this can impact future licensure prospects.
STEP 2: Apply for RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)
Students who successfully complete an undergraduate nursing program are eligible to apply for their Registered Nurse licensure in Maryland or Washington. New nurses must first successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam, submit to a background check, and submit a completed application to the requisite Board of Nursing. In Maryland, this is the Maryland Board of Nursing while in Washington, D.C., applications will go to the D.C. Department of Health. Successful applicants will be able to begin to practice as a registered nurse.
Because Maryland is a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, RNs from 25 participating states are eligible to work in Maryland, meaning that nurses do not necessarily need to complete their undergraduate work in Maryland in order to work there later. Washington, D.C. is not a member of the NLC.
STEP 3: Earn a Graduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)
To continue down the path to becoming a nurse practitioner, RNs must complete further formal training by way of a graduate program in the form of either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The duration of these programs can vary depending on whether the nurse is available to attend full time, as well as which degree the nurse pursues.
In Maryland, students must attend a program that has been approved by the Board of Nursing. A current list of approved programs is available from the Board of Nursing. Those who attend schools that are not listed may experience delays in licensure since the school will have to submit the program for Board approval.
STEP 4: Obtain Specialty Certification Credential (duration: Less Than 1 Year)
Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners must identify a specialty focus prior to beginning practice. Indeed, each nurse practitioner program, whether online or on-campus, will focus on a specific patient population. Before earning a nurse practitioner license, nurses must earn a specialty credential from a Maryland approved credentialing body, which include:
Earning a credential from one of these organizations will generally include submitting transcripts from a nurse practitioner program and sitting for an exam focused on that specialty. The time required to receive a final credential will depend on the individual board.
STEP 5: Apply for Nurse Practitioner Certification (duration: Less than 1 Year)
Nurse Practitioner Certification for the state of Maryland requires submitting a completed application along with a $50 non-refundable fee. The application includes standard information including information about the school the applicant attended, specialty credential earned, and current RN license status.
The Maryland certification does have one unique requirement in that applicants must identify a mentor who has agreed to work with them for the first 18 months of their licensure. The mentor must be either a practicing nurse practitioner or a licensed physician. This requirement does not exist for Washington, D.C.
The application process for online NP programs is similar to that of on-campus graduate programs. Applicants should expect submit an application along with transcripts from their undergraduate programs, a professional resume (or CV), proof of current RN licensure, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.
GPA + Test Scores
Although most NP programs do not require the GRE, some do so it is important for potential applicants to investigate the requirements for their specific program so that they can prepare for that test. Many of the online NP programs in Washington, D.C. also have minimum GPA requirements, which range from 3.0 to 3.3 for undergraduate work.
Other Common Admissions Requirements
Applications for online NP programs can be submitted online. Many programs have one or two deadlines during the year for fall and spring admission, although some programs also feature rolling admissions meaning nurses can apply at any time during the year.
In order for Maryland NP program graduates to be eligible for licensure, they must graduate from a program that is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). It should be noted that the ACEN was formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).
In addition to accreditation, nurse practitioner programs must be explicitly approved by the Maryland Board of Nursing. These programs must show evidence of courses covering the following subjects:
The University of Maryland offers several hybrid Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) pathways for nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. Specifically there are 8 specialties available for the DNP degree:
In addition aspiring nurses can reach the DNP in one of these specialties from either a BSN or MSN degree. Finally, a post-doctoral certificate is available for those who already have a DNP or PhD, but who want to change their specialty or add another. For the post-doctoral certificate, all of the specializations are available except nurse anesthesia and neonatal nurse practitioner. Depending on prior coursework this certificate may encompass 13-62 credits.
At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, students have the opportunity to pursue several graduate nursing degrees. To be sure two post-graduate nurse practitioner certificates are available in psychiatric-mental health and pediatric primary care. The PMHNP certificate comprises 17 credits and is 100% online with no campus visits. The PNP-PC certificate comprises 13 credits and requires one campus visit. In addition Johns Hopkins has moved their DNP offerings into an online format. Specifically the following three specializations require 7 campus visits (approximately one per semester): adult-gerontological primary care NP, family primary care NP, and pediatric primary care NP. Students can also pursue clinical nurse specialist DNP degrees in the following tracks: adult-gerontological health, adult-gerontological critical care, and pediatric critical care. The CNS tracks require three on-site immersions in Baltimore, and students have the option of two more immersions that are not mandatory. In addition, there is an adult-gerontological acute care nurse practitioner DNP specialization offered in a hybrid format with several courses online and some on campus. For this AGACNP specialization, clinicals must be completed in the Baltimore region. Note that there are only a few state restrictions for these online programs. Johns Hopkins has long been considered one of the best schools in the country for healthcare studies. Indeed the school has been designated by the National League for Nursing as a Center for Excellence in Nursing Education, and Johns Hopkins School of Nursing supports three community-based health centers in the city of Baltimore.
The George Washington University (GW) in DC offers a myriad of nurse practitioner graduate degrees. To be sure, students may pursue an MSN, post-master's certificate, or a DNP. Specializations in these programs vary and include some or all of the following: family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care NP, adult-gerontology acute care NP, psychiatric mental health NP, and nurse midwifery. Furthermore GW Nursing offers an ADN-MSN bridge program for those applicants who do not already posses a BSN. These degrees are delivered online with 2-3 campus visits total depending on the chosen path. Note that the PMHNP post-master's certificate has no campus visits and is 100% online. Graduates of George Washington University online NP programs are eligible to apply for licensure in Maryland as well as Washington, DC and select counties in Virginia.
Georgetown University, one of the most renowned schools in the United States, offers an array of graduate nursing degree options. Students can pursue an MSN degree in four different specialties:
Programs offered at Georgetown University have been accredited by the CCNE and are generally regarded as some of the best in the country. All specialties begin in January and are offered part-time or full-time. These programs are delivered online with 2-3 campus visits throughout the programs depending on the specialty chosen.
Finally, theCatholic University of America, located in DC, offers students the chance to complete a master of science in nursing degree witha specialization in family care. The program aims to incorporate concepts of nursing science and advanced nursing clinical practice with theories of health care and leadership to produce well-rounded nursing practitioners. Students in this profram will take courses on a variety of subjects, including Health Care Policy, Advanced Health Assessment, Population Health, and others. Catholic University has been offering nursing education for over 75 years, during which it has become one of the most respected institutions in the area. To be sure, the university was one of the first institutions in the country to offer nurse practitioner programs, and Catholic University's School of Nursing has been awarded many competitive federal grants throughout the years, a recognized marker of excellence.
Purdue University Global which has campuses in Hagerstown and Rockville, MD, offers both post-master's and MSN nurse practitioner degrees online. Specifically both degrees include adult gerontology primary care NP and family NP. In addition, the MSN offers a specialization in adult gerontology acute care NP. The campuses do not hold courses for these advanced nursing degrees, but rather offer students services such as admissions counseling, financial services, and tutoring, among other services. Only the adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner MSN requires a 2.5-day intensive in Indianapolis, IN. Other than that, the rest of this degree and the other degrees are 100% online. Purdue University Global is part of the Purdue University system and seeks to provide affordable advanced education for working adults throughout the US. Clinicals are completed at an approved facility where students live and work.
Following is a list of other online education options for aspiring nurse practitioners in Maryland and DC that are located outside of the state that have been approved for Maryland nurses to attend. The list below is not complete (the Maryland Board of Nursing has a more complete list), but select approved programs include:
Online nurse practitioner programs do not uniformly report campus visitation requirements. In fact, specific campus visitation requirements may change depending on the year and the program. For example Johns Hopkins University, outlined above, has recently moved several of their nurse practitioner DNP specialties online, with only 7 visits required throughout the whole program. Others, such as thier Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner DNP degree are hybrid, requiring some courses to be taken on campus while the rest is online. Still others, like the PMHNP post-master's certificate offered through The George Washington University require no campus visits. Please visit each program page to find out more about specific on-site components.
Though online education can prepare a nurse for the academic requirements of becoming a nurse practitioner, hands-on clinical training is also an essential piece of the puzzle. The training associated with nurse practitioner programs is known as a preceptorship and involves a student working closely with a nurse practitioner in their chosen specialty.
After graduating from an NP program and completing a national certification exam in his or her chosen specialty, a nurse is eligible to apply for his or her nurse practitioner certification. Certified nurse practitioners in both Maryland and Washington, DC are some of the most independent in the country. In addition to standard nursing authority, nurse practitioners in both regions are able to:
This means that becoming a nurse practitioner in either Maryland or Washington, DC is a tremendous opportunity for nurses who want to be able to practice autonomously and make a significant healthcare contribution.