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How Do You Become a Licensed Nurse Practitioner in the States?

Nurse Practitioners are highly qualified medical professionals who work in all areas of healthcare, though over half of nurse practitioners will be fo

Nurse Practitioners are highly qualified medical professionals who work in all areas of healthcare, though over half of nurse practitioners will be found in a primary care setting. As a Nurse Practitioner you will focus on one segment of the population that you want to care for, such as pediatric patients, geriatric patients or psychiatric care patients, and your training will be tailored accordingly. If you want to find out how to become a licensed Nurse Practitioner, read on!

1. Complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has created a helpful infographic which details all the steps necessary to become a licensed Nurse Practitioner. The first step is to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which is typically a four-year course. If you are a Registered Nurse and have an Associate Degree in Nursing you will probably be eligible for a RN to BSN course, which ‘tops up’ your associate degree and often lasts two years if completed full-time and four years if completed part-time.

2. Become a Registered Nurse

If you are not already a Registered Nurse, you will need to become one after completing your Bachelor’s degree. You can achieve this status by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN, which is will test your competency in four key areas: Safe and Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity and Physiological Integrity. Once you pass the exam you can apply to your state’s State Board of Nursing for a Registered Nurse license.

3. Complete a Master of Science in Nursing degree

You could start looking for graduate programs immediately after becoming a Registered Nurse, or you could spend some time working in a hospital or in another healthcare setting to gain some valuable work experience, save some money and make sure that a career in nursing really is for you. Whichever path you choose, if your eventual goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner you will at some point need to complete a graduate program in nursing, which will most likely be a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. On application, or shortly thereafter, you will need to choose your population specialism, so gaining some work experience before applying to graduate nursing school might be a good idea to help you figure out which pathway you are most suited to and interested in. When it comes to finding the right graduate program for you, don’t forget that there are accredited online nurse practitioner programs as well as in-person ones. Attending a virtual and/or a part-time program will allow you to continue working while you study.

4. Become a licensed Nurse Practitioner

Once you complete your graduate degree, which will usually take two years for full-time students, you will need to pass another exam from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and again apply for licensure in your state.