Nurse practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) who have education and specialized training that qualifies them to work alongside and assist physicians in treating patients. An important part of this specialized training is passing certification exams. Read below to understand the steps it takes to become a licensed nurse practitioner.

Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Before an individual can become a nurse practitioner (NP), he or she must first become a registered nurse (RN). There are several paths one can take to earn a master’s degree in nursing and become an RN. The candidate can enroll in a Bachelor’s in Nursing degree program. Once the bachelor’s degree is earned, the individual can enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing program. There are also nursing programs for those who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field or those who have completed an associate’s degree in nursing. These may be called RN-to-MSN or ADN-to-MSN programs.

Certification Exams Required

Once the student has earned the nursing degree, he or she must pass the NCLEX-RN, which is a certification exam that is required to be passed in order to be eligible for licensure as an RN. This is not the same as the nurse practitioner certification. Once this is accomplished, the RN can enroll in advanced training to become a nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioner programs may be in the form of a master or doctorate degree program. The student is generally required to complete coursework and a clinical internship. Upon completion of these requirements, the aspiring NP must pass the nurse practitioner certification exam, which is offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

What About Areas of Specialization?

Nurse practitioners may choose to work in the area of general medicine or may choose one or more of several areas of specialization. Nurse practitioners may choose to obtain certification in more than one area of specialization including:

  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Emergency nurse practitioner
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Acute care nurse practitioner

Do All States Have the Same Certification Requirements?

Nurse practitioners are required to hold a national certification by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Some states may have specific requirements for the aspiring NP in addition to their national certification. In some states, the candidate must not only pass the certification exam but also must pass criminal background checks as prerequisites for the certification exams. details the information for the certification requirements for each state.

Related Resource: Top 30 Most Affordable MSN Nurse Practitioner Degrees Online

Nurse practitioners are in very high in demand and have excellent career growth as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are expected to see a job growth of 31 percent between 2016 and 2026, which makes it more than worthwhile for an RN to take the steps necessary to become a nurse practitioner.