wikiHow to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Three Parts:Becoming a Registered NurseBecoming a Nurse PractitionerUnderstanding Nursing

Nurse Practitioners are one of several types of advanced practice nurses who are important partners in the healthcare industry. They blend their clinical expertise in diagnostics and treatment with an emphasis on disease prevention and health management. Often a Nurse Practitioner works alongside a general, family or specialized practice physician to set up and analyze health screenings, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medications. The Nurse Practitioner also grants doctor referrals and arranges for preventative health as well as manages follow-up appointments. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner requires education and licensing as a Registered Nurse, graduate education and certification.

Part 1
Becoming a Registered Nurse

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    Get a high school diploma. Admission into a school of nursing requires a high school diploma or, alternately, passing the General Education Development (GED) test.[1] If you want to be a nurse, pay attention courses like biology, physiology, and chemistry throughout high school. This knowledge will be very important in gaining qualification as a Registered Nurse (RN) and then a Nurse Practitioner (NP).
    • The foundation of nursing is science. If you don’t like science but find yourself interested in nursing throughout high school, speak with your school counselor about arranging a day or two to shadow a nurse.
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    Undertake post-secondary education in nursing. There are three ways to become a registered nurse. In all cases, coursework includes physiology, biology, chemistry, nutrition, and anatomy.[2]
    • Bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). This level of education is awarded by a college or university and usually takes four years to complete. Class offerings more diverse than other settings and include community health, pharmacology, health assessment, microbiology, human development and clinical practice. A BSN qualifies you for a higher pay grade and a wider variety of certifications and promotions on the job.[3][4]
    • Associate's degree in nursing (ADN). This is the most common way to obtain a registered nursing license and involves a two-year program at a community or junior college. Many students transition to BSN programs after having completed an ASN and holding an entry-level nursing position.[5][6]
    • Diploma from an accredited nursing program. You can also be eligible for licensure by completing a vocational nursing program. These accredited programs are often associated with a hospital and vary in length, though they are typically up to three years long. This education path is on the decline since the National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice recommends that at least 66% of the workforce hold a BSN in nursing or higher.[7][8]
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    Note that you need a BSN to become a Nurse Practitioner. It is necessary to first become a Registered Nurse with a BSN before you can start a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a nurse practitioner. With a diploma or ADN, nurses will be able to move on to their bachelor's degree through accelerated programs and potentially with the assistance of their employers via a tuition reimbursement program.
    • You may also wish to earn a more advanced degree called Doctorate of Nursing Practice instead of the MSN.
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    Make sure your school is accredited. The national accreditation agency for nursing schools is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This agency ensures the quality and integrity of bachelor, graduate, and residency programs in nursing. Accreditation is voluntary but ensures that colleges and schools providing nursing education are operating at the same professional level and educating future nurses in a manner which ensures that they can provide effective and standardized care.[9]
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    Get licensed. Registered Nurses in the United States must have a nursing license. Take the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) once you have graduated from your accredited program. This examination is the nationally recognized licensing exam for registered nurses. Prepare for the international equivalent, such as CGFNS International, if you plan to work overseas or if you are an international student planning to work in the United States.[10][11]
    • Prerequisites to and fees for the exam may differ between states. Check with the requirements for your state, or for the state you plan on practicing in.
    • Be aware as well that each state has their own scope of practice for nursing. It is important to know scope of practice so you know what you can or can not do as a nurse in your state.
    • Most states have reciprocal agreements, meaning that if you pass your exam in one state, you’ll be able to apply for and receive a license in any other state without retaking the test as long as your license if free from any encumbrances (such as a felony conviction).
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    Find a job as an RN. Build some experience on the road to becoming a nurse practitioner by seeking entry-level work in a clinic or a hospital setting to get registered nursing experience. There are more than 2 million nurses in the United States, making the profession the largest in the healthcare field. There are a variety of settings in which a nurse can work, including hospitals, physician's offices, elderly care homes, prisons, college campuses and schools.[12][Image:Become a Nurse Practitioner Step 4.jpg|center]]
    • Entry-level work as an RN usually serves as a stepping-stone to a higher-level career as an advanced practice nurse, like a Nurse Practitioner. You can also work as an RN as you pursue the further education required to become a Nurse Practitioner. There is great flexibility in being able to work as RN while obtaining advanced degree.

Part 2
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

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    Get graduate education in nursing. Most Nurse Practitioners have obtained a Master's Degree of Science in Nursing (MSN). Master's programs are often designed around the needs of a working professional and frequently offer night and weekend classes. A MSN may take between two and seven years to complete, depending upon if the applicant is pursuing the degree full-time or part-time. Make sure to choose a graduate program that has been accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).[13][14][15]
    • To be admitted to this graduate program, you will be required to have a Registered Nurse's license, a bachelor’s degree, and a minimum GPA in the bachelor's degree as determined by the prospective school. Applications often require a statement of purpose, personal history or professional history. Applications may also require an interview.
    • A MSN degree, particularly one with a Nurse Practitioner concentration, prepares students for careers beyond entry-level and allows them to choose a specialty such as pediatrics, women's health, family care or geriatrics, among other fields.
    • Be aware that there is a growing movement to require all Nurse Practitioners to have a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree, or basically a doctoral degree. This degree requires three to four years of further education after a bachelor’s degree in nursing.[16]
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    Get certified to work as a nurse practitioner. After earning a MSN, take the certification examination administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).[17][18]
    • Specialties that require certification in addition to licensing include pediatrics, family health, mental health, acute care, diabetes management and school nursing.
    • Once certified, Nurse Practitioners can also choose to take a specialty examination that certifies they have additional knowledge and ability to practice. These specialty certifications include pain management, rehabilitation, cardiac rehabilitation, college health nursing, forensic nursing, diabetes management, nurse executive, pediatrics, and school nursing.
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    Get a job as a Nurse Practitioner. Nurse practitioners are valued members of the healthcare team, providing cost effective care in the diagnosis, treatment and management of many acute and chronic illnesses. This variety in practice and ability to specialize offers practitioners many options in the work place. Jobs are available in hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, clinics, health departments, urgent care settings, healthcare technology companies, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), among many other institutions. Different ways of getting a job include consulting online job websites, contacting headhunters in nursing, consulting local hospital job postings, and networking with physicians, nursing managers and community clinics, among other methods.[19]
    • The average salary of a NP is is $90,583 and the job outlook for NPs is considered excellent at present. This is because the numbers of primary care physicians is decreasing as the demand for healthcare services is rising thanks to the aging baby boomer generation.
    • Other professional opportunities include teaching in schools and universities and working for governmental and military agencies.
    • Note as well that about 15% of all Nurse Practitioners have their own private practices. There are also a growing number of nurse-run healthcare centers in the United States in which all healthcare is provided by nurse practitioners and other professionals. Keep in mind that not every state allows this — independent practitioners can only do this if it is within their state's scope of practice.

Part 3
Understanding Nursing

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    Understand the nursing profession in general. According to the American Nurses Association, nursing today is designed for the protection, promotion and optimization of health and the prevention of illness and injury. Nurses are advocates in the care of individuals, families and communities.[20] The standardized education of today’s nurses, in contrast to the past, reflects the high expectations communities and physicians have on the men and women who fill these roles.
    • The nursing profession is not just for women; there are over a hundred thousand registered male nurses working in the US.
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    Determine if the general responsibilities of nursing interest you. The foundation of all nursing practice is based in human anatomy and physiology. The chief mission of the nursing field is to protect, promote and optimize health. Key responsibilities for nurses include:[21]
    • Performing physical examinations and taking medical and family histories.
    • Providing counseling and education about health promotion and injury protection.
    • Administering medication and providing wound care.
    • Coordinating care and collaborating with other professionals including doctors, therapists and dietitians.
    • Directing and supervising care and providing education to patients and family, which enable patients to be discharged sooner.
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    Consider the specific job of a Nurse Practitioner. Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have obtained graduate education which in turn increases their professional responsibilities. Nurse practitioners can serve in multiple roles, including providing direct care to patients, research in healthcare, consulting and education. Some of their duties can include:[22][23]
    • Undertaking physical examinations of patients
    • Providing immunizations
    • Diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries
    • Managing chronic health problems (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)
    • Ordering and interpret diagnostic tests (e.g., X-rays, EKGs, etc.)
    • Prescribing medications and/or therapies
    • Counseling patients on lifestyle and healthcare decisions
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    Know the skills and qualities required of Nurse Practitioners. Beyond having a breadth of knowledge in medicine (and being someone who does not get squeamish easily!), a Nurse Practitioner must also be skilled in other areas. In this sense, nursing is like any other profession in that there are specific individual qualities that make the job easier and a more natural fit for some people. It's important to determine whether your personality and abilities can accommodate the various responsibilities and tasks that come with being a NP. Key qualities include:[24][25]
    • Critical thinking: Nurse Practitioners must be able to assess changes in the health status of their patients from a variety of sources (what the patient says, diagnostic tests, clinical examinations, etc.) and make a quick and evidence-based recommendations.
    • Interpersonal and communication skills: Being an NP requires working with people everyday—doctors, other nurses, technicians, patients, caregivers, and others. To communicate information and do their jobs effectively and clearly, nurses need strong interpersonal skills, patience, and the ability to break down complex information into something that is accessible for ordinary people (i.e., non-specialists).
    • Compassion: Caring and empathy are valuable when taking care of individuals who are in sick or injured. Remember that patients may be scared or in pain and need to be comforted, reassured, and motivated to fight through their illnesses.
    • Detail-oriented and organized: NPs often work with multiple patients and healthcare professional at a time and so they need to be able to keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done. In addition, attention to detail is key; one small mistake can have a big impact on a patient’s condition and life.
    • Effective coping with stress: Nurse Practitioners should be able to cope with stress in effective and healthy ways because they often work in urgent, emergency and/or other sensitive situations and face continual workplace pressures and stressors.


  • Nurse practitioners are most interested in prevention and maintenance, providing excellent education for the patient and family.


  • Ensure that you are getting your education from an accredited school.

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