How to Become a Nurse Practitioner in California

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who complete a graduate level education in nursing. The advanced education qualifies the nurse to diagnose illnesses and conditions and work with physicians to develop treatment plans. Nurse practitioners may be the primary caregiver for patients while consulting with physicians. In California, nurse practitioners must meet the requirements for a registered nurse and hold a license in addition to meeting the advanced education requirements for a nurse practitioner.


  1. Image titled Become a Nurse Practitioner in California Step 1
    Obtain a Registered Nurse License in California. Nurse practitioners in the state of California must be registered nurses to qualify for certification.
    • Nursing students planning a career as a nurse practitioner should complete a bachelor's degree program in nursing to obtain the registered nurse credential. A bachelor's degree qualifies the nurse to enter a graduate degree program in nursing, which is a requirement for nurse practitioners.
    • California registered nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses to qualify for a state license. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers the examination for nurses in California. The examination tests the medical knowledge and nursing skills of the registered nurse applicant.
    • Registered nursing applicants must undergo a background investigation when applying for a license to practice in the state of California.
  2. Image titled Become a Nurse Practitioner in California Step 2
    Complete a Nurse Practitioner training program. A nurse practitioner must complete a master's degree program in nursing or meet the certification requirements of a national nurse practitioner organization.
    • The education program must have a minimum of 12 semester units in clinical training to meet the requirements of the California Nursing Practice Act.
    • Courses in the graduate degree program should include pathophysiology, communication skills, taking patient histories, psychosocial assessment, normal growth and development, interpretation of laboratory tests, pharmacology, diagnosis, nutrition, emergency treatment and health maintenance.
    • Nurse practitioners must specialize in a particular area of medicine in the graduate degree program such as adult, pediatric or family nurse practitioner.
    • Certification programs acceptable to the California Board of Registered Nurses include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties.
  3. Image titled Become a Nurse Practitioner in California Step 3
    Apply to the California Board of Registered Nursing for Certification. Applicants must submit official transcripts from an accredited nursing program along with a verification of nurse practitioner academic program to the board.
    • The state of California requires nurse practitioners to disclose all convictions, disciplinary actions and surrendering of a nursing license from California or any other state.
    • Applicants must provide the state board with the registered nurse license when seeking certification as a nurse practitioner.
    • The application also requires the disclosure of the applicant's social security number and a photograph to the California State Board of Registered Nurses.

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Categories: Occupations