The path to becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) provides a way for registered nurses (RNs) to advance their careers without quitting their current jobs. As a result, many RNs have chosen to enroll in online NP programs in Washington. These flexible, affordable programs allow candidates to take advantage of the state's favorable employment outlook for NPs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the $117,650 annual mean wage for Washington NPs falls well above the national mean wage of $110,030. The state also employs over 3,400 NPs, making it the region's largest employer for NPs.
While the pay increase from RN to NP is significant, professionals' earning potential depends on their chosen specialty. Here is a great resource that features ideas for specializations and details on how to pursue each career path.
Prospective NPs must complete a certain amount of education and work experience, meet Washington licensing requirements, and apply for a license. The following guide includes information for aspiring Washington NPs, including the state's career outlook, salary prospects, and license renewal guidelines.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Based in Washington
Candidates can choose from two NP programs in WA: a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. While some healthcare facilities prefer to hire candidates with a DNP, Washington NPs may practice with only an MSN. The program's length, format, and total cost ultimately depend on the student's chosen option.
Typically, an MSN requires 3-4 years of study, while a DNP takes anywhere from 3-7 years to finish. The length of a DNP program often depends on whether or not the candidate has previously completed a master's degree.
While some healthcare facilities prefer to hire candidates with a DNP, Washington NPs may practice with only an MSN.
While many MSN and DNP programs in WA are online, some distance education programs include in-person components. Every accredited NP program requires nurses to complete contact hours outside of school. Students complete these contact hours at healthcare facilities that align with the student's specialty area. An MSN requires up to 660 contact hours, while a post-baccalaureate DNP requires up to 1,000 hours. However, nurses in Washington are only required to complete 250 contact hours.
Admission requirements vary by program and school, although all applicants should be licensed RNs with at least a BSN. Ideally, the candidate's BSN should be from a WA school. Some institutions only accept RNs from specific states, as Washington is not part of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC).
Admission requirements vary by program and school, although all applicants should be licensed RNs with at least a BSN.
While it may be tempting to apply directly for a DNP without completing an MSN, it is highly recommended that RNs first earn an MSN. This pathway reduces the amount of schooling required to earn a DNP and eases the difficulty of completing up to seven straight years of schooling. Nurses who first earn an MSN can decide if they want to continue their education while still satisfying Washington's NP requirements.
Complete List of Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in Washington
Washington Nurse Practitioner Career Information
Washington is one of the nation's highest-paying states for NPs, with only Alaska and Hawaii outpacing the state in the region. Washington's projected 30.4% job growth rate for NPs is lower than that in other nearby states. However, Washington also boasts a higher population than each of those states, and the projected number of added positions may be higher than in states like Idaho or Montana.
Washington's large number of family nurse practitioners (FNPs) strongly impacts the state's mean salary for NPs. FNPs make up 47.8% of NPs in Washington, and NPs are more likely to work in a healthcare office or clinic than anywhere else. Other specialties typically feature higher mean salaries, which also influence the overall mean salary for all NPs in Washington.
Nurse Practitioner Salary and Projected Job Growth in Washington and Nearby States
Earn national certification and send verification to the Washington Nursing Commission
Complete 250 hours of advanced clinical nursing practice within the past two years, or complete an approved graduate program within one year of applying
Pay a $125 application fee
NPs must renew their ARNP license every two years. Professionals receive a renewal reminder 90 days before their license expires. To be eligible for renewal, nurses must hold an active RN license and continue to hold national certification in the NP's area of expertise. RN and ARNP licenses are renewable at the same time. Requirements for maintaining certification vary depending on the certification.
Next, NPs must prove they have completed at least 250 hours of clinical practice in their field of expertise within the past two years. The applicant should also complete at least 30 hours of continuing education and pay a $125 renewal fee.
Other Requirements for Washington Nurse Practitioners
All Washington NPs must earn and maintain a specialty certification. Various nursing organizations offer specialty certifications, and each organization upholds its own set of acceptance and renewal requirements. Prospective NPs should plan on completing continuing education hours for certification in addition to those required by Washington. In some instances, continuing education hours may count toward both the ARNP credential and certification renewal.
Washington also upholds continuing competency laws. Every three years, RNs must prove they have completed 45 continuing education credits. They must also complete 531 hours of active practice, a self-assessment, and a reflection. NPs must maintain RN licensure, so these requirements extend to ARNP licenses.
All Washington NPs with prescriptive authority must complete 15 continuing education credits every two years to remain current.
NPs pursuing prescriptive authority are required to complete 30 hours of pharmacology continuing education hours within the past two years. However, current NPs with prescriptive authority in another state may request an exemption from this requirement. In this case, the NP must prove they held prescriptive authority for at least two years and provide a copy of their license. All Washington NPs with prescriptive authority must complete 15 continuing education credits every two years to remain current.
Information for Out-Of-State Nurse Practitioners
Washington is not part of the NLC, so out-of-state NPs must meet Washington's requirements for both RN and ARNP licensure. This is common, as NP practice authority varies from state to state. Fortunately, current NPs in another state enjoy an easy route to state ARNP licensure. Washington's application process is straightforward for out-of-state NPs with valid certification who completed an MSN or DNP from an accredited school.
Out-of-state NPs must obtain an active Washington RN license. They must also provide proof of completing a graduate degree in nursing and demonstrate that they hold national certification in their field. Finally, the NP must prove that they completed at least 250 hours of advanced nursing practice within the past two years, either through pay stubs or a letter from their past employer.
Resources for Washington Nurse Practitioners
ARNPs United of Washington State AUWS is a nonprofit organization that advocates for nurses through state legislature. The association also offers continuing education opportunities and connects NPs with local and national organizations.
Washington State Nurses Association WSNA boasts 17,000 members -- nearly one-fifth of all licensed Washington nurses. Membership benefits include networking and leadership opportunities.
Washington Nursing Commission This government organization administers state nursing licensure. The commission's website tells nurses everything they need to know about applying for and renewing a license.
Washington Nursing Action Coalition The Washington Nursing Action Coalition works to promote healthcare changes that support nurses and advance workforce education. Members join a vast network of nurses and help promote better nursing education.