Readers interested in learning about the educational requirements for nurse practitioners (NPs) can review this guide for an in-depth look at the field. On this page, we explore some career pathways for NPs, including different patient population focus areas, such as neonatology, women’s health, and pediatric primary or acute care.
This page focuses on the degree pathways to becoming an NP, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral nursing programs. Students can also explore options for individuals with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. Since the process of becoming an NP includes more than just earning a degree, this guide also examines some additional specialization and recertification requirements.
Candidates should consider two key components when choosing their path to becoming a NP: their educational background and their current status as a nurse. Candidates interested in learning more about becoming an NP can check out this page for some answers to frequently asked questions.
NP Program Requirements by Pathway
NP Requirements for LPNs or LVNs
Some programs allow licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) to become NPs by completing intensive on-campus coursework. Program options for these nurses are limited, and many LPNs and LVNs earn their RN license before applying to an NP program.
NP Requirements By Degree Type
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Requirements
NP programs for individuals with an associate degree in nursing typically require an RN license. While other admissions requirements depend on the individual school, applicants are often required to hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Additional admissions materials may include GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a completed application, and a statement of purpose. Learners can also explore RN-to-NP bridge programs and ADN-to-NP bridge programs, allowing students to satisfy degree requirements at an accelerated pace.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Requirements
Many colleges and universities offer BSN-to-NP programs that require candidates to hold an RN license and a BSN. While admissions requirements vary between institutions, applicants can expect some similarities between programs.
Prospective BSN students should provide a completed application along with their official high school transcripts. Most schools expect candidates to meet a minimum GPA requirement; usually, between 2.5 and 3.0. Other admission materials can include letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and ACT or SAT test scores.
Some programs require degree-seekers to demonstrate at least one year of prior nursing experience, although many BSN-holders go directly into an NP program without practicing as an RN first. In addition, students can often earn their degree online and complete their clinical hours at a location near their residence.
Non-Nursing Bachelor's Degree Requirements
Can you become a nurse practitioner with a biology major? Accelerated NP programs allow RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline to satisfy BSN requirements before fulfilling nurse practitioner prerequisites. While most programs set slightly different admissions criteria, they also hold some similarities.
Programs often require applicants to meet a minimum GPA requirement, such as 3.0 or higher. Other nurse practitioner admission requirements include a completed application, official transcripts, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Applicants may also need to take prerequisite courses in nutrition and human anatomy.
Candidates often hold at least two years of RN experience prior to admission, along with a strong academic record. Accelerated bachelor’s programs typically last 2-4 years and consist of 45-55 course credits.
Students can explore a variety of flexible online programs, pursue their degree on campus, or enroll in hybrid programs, depending on their learning style.
Some NP programs accept applicants who do not hold an RN license and hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. These learners often hold a degree in a health or science-related field and must complete relevant prerequisite coursework.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Requirements
Prospective NPs can satisfy their state’s educational guidelines by earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Typically, MSN programs take about two years to complete.
MSN candidates can take advantage of a variety of online program opportunities, which offer the flexibility learners need to continue working as they earn a degree. Once online students graduate, they can pursue national certification and begin working as NPs or enroll in a DNP program.
MSN-to-DNP Program Requirements
Many nurses who want to expand their career opportunities enroll in DNP programs. Some colleges and universities offer MSN-to-DNP programs, which allow candidates to pursue an advanced degree in an accelerated format. Since learners in these programs already hold a master’s, they spend significantly less time earning a doctoral degree than individuals who hold only a bachelor’s or associate degree.
MSN-to-DNP candidates can often complete their program in as little as one year. Most curricula include 30-40 credits of coursework and around 500 hours of supervised clinical experience. Students interested in learning more about MSN-to-DNP programs can find more information on this page.
Top Online Programs
Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.
Additional Specialization Requirements
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with an advanced degree can pursue a variety of specialization opportunities in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and physician’s offices. These NPs may seek training in a specialized nursing subfield and focus on a particular patient population or type of care.
At minimum, APRNs must hold an MSN, although some choose to earn a DNP. Along with a graduate degree, candidates must hold an active RN license. Professionals may become four types of APRNs:
Clinical nurse specialists
This page offers more information about specialization requirements.
NP Recertification Requirements
Recertification requirements vary according to specialty area. The following table explores renewal requirements from the American Nurse Credentialing Center, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, the National Certification Corporation, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program.
Specialties: Acute Care, Adult, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health, Family, Gerontological, Pediatric Primary Care, Psychiatric-Mental Health, School, and Emergency
Renewal Cycle: Every 5 years
Requirements: To renew ANCC certification, professionals should provide evidence of continual learning and competence by completing activities in the following categories: Assessment, Practice hours, Professional service, Preceptorship, Publication or Research, Presentations and lectures, Academic courses, and Continuing education
Specialties: Pediatric Primary Care and Pediatric Acute Care
Renewal Cycle: Every year
Requirements: Professionals must recertify annually, completing PNCB Pediatric Updates modules and pharmacology coursework over a seven-year period. Individuals can track their seven-year cycle requirements online.
Requirements: Candidates receive an education plan developed according to the results of their continuing competency assessment. This plan determines the number and type of continuing education hours needed to maintain certification. Requirements range from 10-50 hours.
Specialties: Adult, Family, Gerontological, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
Renewal Cycle: Every five years
Requirements: Professionals can recertify by completing at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice and 100 contact hours of advanced CE credits, or by completing either the A-GNP or FNP National Certification Exam.
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Cobb DNP, APRN
Dr. Cynthia Cobb is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health, aesthetics and cosmetics, and skin care. She graduated from Chatham University in 2009. Dr. Cobb is a faculty member at Walden University and is also the founder and owner of the medical spa Allure Enhancement Center. She has also produced numerous publications over the years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, swimming, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, traveling, and shopping.
Many students prefer online nursing schools and programs, which offer learners considerably more flexibility and autonomy than traditional, on-campus programs. This list outlines some of the best online nursing programs.