How Do You Become a Nurse Practitioner?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Mar 7, 2023
How to become a nurse practitioner title card with two nurses standing together

Choosing a nurse practitioner (NP) as a career choice is great for nursing students who want to take on a more advanced role in patient care. But you should know the finer details of how to become a nurse practitioner.

Jump to Stages


  1. What is a nurse practitioner?
  2. What does a nurse practitioner do?
  3. Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner
  4. How many years to become a nurse practitioner?

They are licensed health care professionals who can diagnose and treat a wide range of medical conditions, prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and provide patient education and counseling.

To become a nurse practitioner, students typically need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, obtain a registered nursing (RN) license, gain clinical experience as an RN, and complete a graduate-level nurse practitioner program. Depending on the program and individual timeline, this can take anywhere from six to eight years.

Becoming a nurse practitioner can be a rewarding career choice for those who want to have a greater impact on patient care, work with more autonomy, and earn a higher salary

Nurse practitioners also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of healthcare, such as pediatrics, women’s health, or oncology. They can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and community health centers.

What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has completed graduate-level education and training in nursing, assessment, and diagnosis. 

Nurse practitioners are authorized to provide a wide range of healthcare services, including ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and developing and implementing treatment plans.

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires dedication and hard work, but it can be an extremely rewarding career path for those passionate about nursing.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

Nurse practitioners can provide a wide range of healthcare services, including physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting tests, prescribing medications, and managing chronic conditions.

The day-to-day practice of a nurse practitioner can vary depending on their specialty area and the setting in which they work. For example, a nurse practitioner working in primary care may see patients of all ages and provide preventative care, screenings, and treatments for common illnesses and injuries. 

A nurse practitioner working in a specialty area such as cardiology or oncology may focus on managing complex conditions and work collaboratively with other health care professionals to coordinate care.

Typically, a nurse practitioner will see patients throughout the day, conducting physical exams, reviewing medical histories, and ordering diagnostic tests. They may also prescribe medications, provide patient education, and collaborate with health care team members. 

In some settings, nurse practitioners may also have administrative responsibilities such as managing staff or overseeing quality improvement initiatives.

5 Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner

It’s important to note that the requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner may vary by state and specialty area, and prospective nurse practitioners need to research the specific requirements in their area.

1. Earn an undergraduate degree.

A two to four-year degree provides students with a strong foundation in nursing theory, research, and practice. Going for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is highly recommended.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN and obtain a registered nurse (RN) license.

After completing an undergraduate program, the next step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN.

3. Gain nursing experience.

Most schools require a minimum of one to two years of nursing experience to apply for a nurse practitioner program.

4. Earn an advanced graduate degree.

A graduate degree is typically the minimum educational requirement to become a nurse practitioner – preferably a Master of Science of Nursing (MSN). A graduate program usually takes two to three years to complete and provides students with specialized education in their chosen nurse practitioner specialty.

5. Obtain the proper certifications and licensure.

After completing a graduate program, postgrads have to pass a certification exam in their nurse practitioner specialty area. There are several certifying bodies for nurse practitioners, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

After obtaining certification, you have to obtain a state license to practice as a nurse practitioner. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, but typically involve completing an application, paying a fee, and passing a background check.

To maintain nurse practitioner certification and licensure, nurse practitioners must complete continuing education credits and renew their licenses periodically.

Nurse practitioners are required to renew their license every two years, which involves completing thirty hours of continuing education (CE) in a specialty area. If they have prescriptive authority, an additional fifteen hours in pharmacology are also required.

How many years to become a nurse practitioner?

The amount of time it takes to complete these steps can vary based on individual circumstances, such as the type of nursing program attended and the amount of time spent working as an RN. 

In general, it may take between six to eight years to become a nurse practitioner, but this can vary depending on the educational path chosen and the individual’s prior experience.

A Smoother Nursing Career Journey Starts Here

Overall, the role of a nurse practitioner is focused on providing high-quality, patient-centered care and working collaboratively with patients and other healthcare professionals to promote health and well-being.

It’s one of many fantastic nursing careers you can step into. But one of the biggest hurdles beforehand is passing the NCLEX exam.

SimpleNursing has the tools you need to ace the NCLEX, including the Next Generation NCLEX (NGN). We offer a lecture series, question banks, adaptive tests, and much more to help cut down study time for you.

Pass the NCLEX on your first try.

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