If you are already a nurse or considering a career in nursing for the future, you might be wondering how many years of school you will need to complete in order to hit your career goals. Generally, taking this career path will involve becoming a registered nurse by completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing before obtaining a graduate degree to become a nurse practitioner after you have gained some experience in nursing. After gaining certification and state licensure as a registered nurse, you will also need to get licensed as an advanced practice registered nurse.
You may also wonder how much it will cost to become a nurse practitioner. The cost will vary depending on where you decide to enroll in undergraduate and graduate school and whether or not you decide to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Fees for nurse practitioner programs tend to vary depending on the state that you’re studying in and there can also be differences in program formats to consider. For example, studying for your nurse practitioner program online can be cheaper compared to studying on-campus with less associated costs for transport and accommodation.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse who has advanced education and training. Nurse practitioners tend to have the authority to diagnose, treat, advise, and prescribe medication to their patients. Many are able to practice independently without the oversight of a doctor depending on the regulations in the specific state that they practice. Most nurse practitioners will focus on various certain specialties such as mental health, women’s health, pediatrics, geriatrics, or adult medicine.
Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner:
How long does it take for you to become a nurse practitioner? The length of time that it may take to become a nurse practitioner can vary from one individual to the other. You will need to complete a bachelor’s degree, become a registered nurse, gain experience in the field, get a graduate degree, and complete certification. So, it will depend on how long you take to do all of these things, for example, whether you decide to study full-time or part-time. Understanding the importance of achieving the right degree and getting the right certification at the right time will ensure that you plan your career path most efficiently. So, what are the steps to become a nurse practitioner?
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree and Become a Registered Nurse:
Earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming a registered nurse is the first step that you will need to take in your career. This will provide you with a strong foundation that is essential to the clinical skills that the role of the nurse practitioner will require. Registered nurses will work with a large variety of patient populations, providing and coordinating care, educating patients and the general public about health, and offering guidance and support to their patients and their families. Nurse practitioners typically work as part of a close-knit team of health professionals and perform a variety of tasks including assessing the patient’s condition, documenting various aspects of patient care, prescribing and administering medicines and treatments, operating and monitoring medical equipment, assessing with diagnostic testing and analysis, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals.
Once you have graduated from high school, you can become a registered nurse by completing either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program in nursing from an accredited school. There are alternative options which include combining the steps necessary to become a registered nurse via pursuing accelerated tracks designed for those who have gained a degree in a non-nursing field. You may also decide to become a licensed practical nurse first, which will allow you to gain clinical experience and earn an income while completing your education to become an RN. Once graduated, you will also need to pass a standardized national licensing examination; the NCLEX-RN.
Gain Field Experience:
Once you have gained your bachelor’s degree, the next step is to find work and gain clinical experience in the field. Many individuals who complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing have already been working in a clinical setting either in a caring environment or as a licensed practical nurse, but if you decided to start a bachelor’s in nursing straight out of high school you might benefit from getting some further experience under your belt before pursuing the nurse practitioner pathway.
Some nurses begin in a medical-surgical setting, which is an excellent choice for providing a strong foundation in gaining experience caring for patients with a range of needs. Others may choose to begin their career in a specialty area, so it’s important to consider the type of work that you would like to pursue as a nurse practitioner and determine which type of experience is going to benefit you the most as you start your nursing career. If you would like to specialize in a certain area, there are several different types of nursing qualifications available that you can choose from which typically require a minimum of two years of clinical experience.
When it comes to the amount of experience that is needed, typically, one to two years of clinical work experience will provide a strong foundation for your nurse practitioner career depending on the setting and your future career goals. Registered nurses can earn specialty certification in several fields, which usually include a minimum requirement of a certain number of years in the field.
Gain a Graduate Degree:
To become a nurse practitioner, the minimum educational requirement is a master of science in nursing (MSN). There are around four hundred different academic institutions that offer this program tailored to those who want to work as a nurse practitioner in the US. It’s important to ask yourself a series of questions to help you choose the best program to fit your specific needs. Consider whether or not training is offered in your preferred specialty area, whether or not your preferred method of attendance, such as online learning, classroom learning or both are available, what the entry requirements are and whether or not you qualify, and what the accreditation and graduate certification rates of the program are.
The entry requirements for a master of science in nursing program will vary depending on the school that it is offered by. Typically, you will be required to have a certain level of undergraduate education and licensure, plus clinical experience, academic transcripts, and reference letters. Most family nurse practitioner degree programs will require you to have gained a BSN degree from an accredited college, an active registered nurse’s license, and the ability to meet the required clinical practice experience for the program, and a minimum amount of years of work experience as a registered nurse.
Some aspiring nurse practitioners will also choose to pursue a doctor of nursing practice degree to further advance their knowledge and build a stronger foundation for their career.
Achieve State Licensing and Certification:
Each state requires a nurse practitioner to hold the appropriate license. These will be controlled and governed by the Board of Nursing for each state. It’s important to know exactly what is required before you begin any education and training. You can find specific licensure requirements for each state from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), along with contact information for each state’s Board of Nursing.
Before you can practice as a nurse practitioner, you will also be required to pass a national certification exam from an accredited body. You can get this from several examining bodies including the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board, and the National Certification Corporation.
Why become a nurse practitioner? This field has several different options to specialize, and the nurse practitioner degree program curriculum provides a range of specialized education and training options to enable nurse practitioners to practice at an advanced level in an area of their choosing. These areas tend to have a specific area of focus and nurse practitioners can choose to get certification in more than one field. The area of specialization itself and the certifying body will dictate the requirements necessary to do so.
The amount of time that you will need to get qualified in a certain specialist area a nurse practitioner will depend on a range of factors including the area of specialization itself, the amount of clinical experience needed in that area, exam eligibility requirements, and the exam schedule
If you have decided that becoming a nurse practitioner is the right choice of career for you, you can begin building a strong foundation for your career by taking part in a variety of experiencing as early as possible. You may want to volunteer in specific healthcare settings to help you decide on a specialty focus and determine what you are good at and what you would like to do. Also, gaining experience in other healthcare settings can provide you with a broader, multi-discipline perspective that will enable you to be a better future nurse practitioner.