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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a licensed nurse practitioner generally requires the completion of a masters' degree in nursing. The most direct path to a nurse practitioner career is the initial completion of a bachelors' degree in nursing (BSN) that prepares you for taking the national exam for licensure as a Registered Nurse, the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).

For nurses who have already become RNs by completing an associates' degree in nursing or a diploma course, there are hundreds of schools that offer the RN to BSN degree which can be completed in two years or less. But the completion of a nurse practitioner program is different from a masters' in nursing or MSN, so most students who are intent on becoming nurse practitioners begin their nursing careers with a BSN degree.

Most nurse practitioner degree programs want their entrants to have some work experience as RNs prior to commencing their graduate studies. Once enrolled in a nurse practitioner program, it may take one to two years to complete depending on experience, on the school and on the course of study chosen.

There are several specialty options in the field today, as nurse practitioners (NPs) have become fixtures in medical practices of all sizes and types. Certified specialties include:

  • Family NP
  • Geriatric NP
  • Pediatric NP
  • Adult NP
  • Women's Health Care NP
  • Neonatal NP
  • Occupational Health NP

There are additional nurse specialists who train in acute care, midwifery and anesthesia. But for nurses who want to become de facto medical practitioners, the NP option is an excellent choice.

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