Becoming a Nurse Practitioner with a Non-Nursing Bachelor's Degree (Find out about the 2 Fastest Ways)
Written By: Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
You chose a different job, but now you’re thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner. Becoming a nurse practitioner is the ultimate career because you genuinely leave your handprint on patient’s lives. Now is the perfect time to pursue an advanced career in nursing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the total employment of nurse practitioners (NP) is projected to grow
an astonishing 26% from 2018 to 2020. If that was not enough to convince you, the average salary for a nurse practitioner
is $109,035 per year.
Can I Become an NP with a Bachelor's Degree in a Non-Nursing field?
In a nutshell, yes- you can become a nurse practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. In fact, that is essentially what I did! If you’re looking for a shift from your current career, read on to see how you can apply your skills and experience to the nursing field. Nurse practitioners work in diverse areas of medicine
across so many settings. This article will cover each step from prerequisite courses to earning your license to practice.
What do I Need to Become a Nurse Practitioner with a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree?
First, make sure that your bachelor’s degree is from an accredited school. Next, you will need to ensure you have all the basic prerequisites such as Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology (I and II), Microbiology, and Nutrition. Some programs require a psychology or statistics course. Finally, you will need to obtain CPR certification through the American Heart Association called Basic Life Support
(BLS). Usually, you just need this before starting nursing school and not before applying.
To prepare for the application process, take some time to get organized. Set aside money for admission fees. For each school you apply to, you will pay nonrefundable fees. The schools require transcripts from all the schools that you attended, which often comes with another additional cost.
Creating a goal or personal statement essay is an important part that many applicants blow off. It should be organized, passionate, and supportive of your community and why you want to become a nurse. This does not need to be a rambling piece, but it should be a concise page about why you would be an asset to the program and to the career.
You will also need two to three professional references. If you have any healthcare experience, this would be the prime time to tap into those connections for reference letters. With close proximity to at-risk populations, you will have to have a physical exam and up-to-date immunizations. Nursing schools check for Hepatitis B, rubella, and varicella.
• Non-nursing bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college
• Prerequisite coursework: Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology (I and II), Microbiology, Human Nutrition, Psychology, Statistics.
• Goal statement essay
• Health records
• BLS certification
Luckily, there are many different pathways to become a nurse practitioner. The program options vary in length of time and cost, so finding one that works for your situation is critical. Your choices include traditional associate, baccalaureate, graduate, and accelerated nursing degrees. For those looking for the quickest route, from start to finish, it will take anywhere from three to four years. Fast-track programs differ as well. Baccalaureate programs take between 11 and 18 months to complete, while master’s programs take two to three years to complete. This article will focus on the accelerated tracks.
How Much will it Cost?
The tuition cost to become an NP without a nursing degree varies tremendously. Private universities have hefty price tags while a public college is more affordable. This means if you work as a nurse while pursuing a higher degree, it may be covered entirely. However, not all employers offer this perk, and you may not want to base your plan of study on this. Some opt to work as a nursing assistant for a hospital during school to earn money and receive tuition benefits.
What are the Quickest Education Options to Become an NP without a Nursing Degree?
Following are the 2 Quickest options for you to become an NP with a Non-Nursing Degree.
Option 1: Accelerated BSN Program OR Direct-Entry MSN Program
Step 1: Complete an Accelerated BSN Program OR Direct-Entry MSN Program
Accelerated BSN Program: Accelerated programs give you everything that a BSN has to offer, but quicker. The time commitment is often intense, as accelerated programs cover a significant amount of content in a short period. When you are in this program, try to consider it as your full-time job. Some thrive in this fast-paced environment, while others would rather learn the information at a leisurely pace. Regardless of your background, the biggest focus is on your GPA. Many programs require a 3.0 GPA or higher.
The Direct-Entry or Graduate-entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): The accelerated MSN program typically takes just under two years. You must have a bachelor’s degree in any field. The program is intense and prepares you to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you graduate, you will have your MSN.
As a non-nursing bachelor’s degree holder, I chose this route at the University of Toledo. After getting a job as a Registered Nurse (RN), it was natural to become an advanced practice nurse. A benefit of the higher degree level is the increased paygrade at each job. However, with the increased cost of the program, this may wind up being a wash. I eventually graduated midwifery school, and it took me another seven years while working and raising a family. You could do it more quickly, but I value the skills experience I obtained. There’s no one way or correct path to choose, but I am incredibly grateful that I started, even when it felt overwhelming.
Step 2: Obtain Your Registered Nursing License
Once you’ve completed your Accelerated BSN or Direct-Entry MSN, it’s time to make it official. Even board-certified NPs have their RN license. The NCLEX-RN is the only way to practice as a registered nurse.
You will need to apply to take the NCLEX-RN through your state’s regulatory body and then register through Pearson VUE to take the exam. After these steps are completed, you will receive your Authorization to Test (ATT). With your ATT, you can now schedule to take your NCLEX-RN.
The NCLEX-RN is a complicated exam with a variety of types of test questions that require both critical thinking and nursing knowledge. You should take the exam as soon as you have your ATT so that your knowledge is still fresh. If you pass the NCLEX-RN, you will now be a licensed Registered Nurse in your chosen state. The faster you take it, the faster you are continuing to your NP!
Step 3: Prepare for NP Education
Most programs prefer that the student be a Registered Nurse with some experience, although many programs waive that requirement. However, you must have an active and unencumbered license. You should have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Some programs require a statistics or pathophysiology class.
Step 4: Earn Your Nurse Practitioner Degree
Once you become an RN, the next steps depend entirely on how you got here. If you obtained your accelerated BSN, the fastest next step is to quickly complete an MSN nurse practitioner program. If you earned your accelerated MSN, then a post-master’s certificate is the quickest path.
Full-time MSN-NP Program: A full-time MSN for NP takes about two years. You typically have the option between either an online hybrid or brick and mortar program. The clinical requirements for this program are intense. You will need more than 600 hours of clinical experience with your preceptor.
Post-master’s NP Certificate: A post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate is for those who hold a master’s degree in nursing. The total credit hours for this program vary depending on which of your courses transfer. Typically, you will still need more than 600 hours in clinical experience with a preceptor.
Option 2: Accelerated Masters (Nurse Practitioner) Program for Non-Nurses
The direct entry NP program allows baccalaureate-prepared students in other fields to earn a nursing graduate degree. You have many options for the specific type of NP, such as Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP), Family Nurse Practitioner, and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP).
Generally, the student will be able to sit for the NCLEX after the first year and become a Registered Nurse. After that, they will have two to three more years to become a nurse practitioner. Programs vary tremendously in how they teach- some are entirely brick and mortar. In contrast, others are a hybrid of online, clinical, and in-person.
Now that I am an NP, how do I Become Certified?
You’ve finally become a nurse practitioner with a Non-Nursing bachelor's degree! Once you graduate from your respected university, you will apply to take your certification exam. The certification body that you apply for the exam depends entirely on your specialty. The following are all national certification agencies which you may test through:
• American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
• American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
• American Nurses Association - American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
• National Certification Corporation (NCC)
• Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
Following receiving approval to test from the certification agency, you can schedule the test. Generally, tests are given by computer at a testing center.
How do I Obtain a License in my State to Practice as an NP?
After passing your national certification exam, you will apply to be recognized as a Certified Nurse Practitioner. States require that you have the MSN from your accredited NP program, national certification as an NP from the exam that you passed, and a current and unencumbered RN license.
However, each state has different requirements to receive and maintain certification. States also have different regulations surrounding the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, such as full practice, reduced practice, or restricted practice. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners provides further information about the requirements for NPs across the country.
Finally, Why Should I Become an NP when I already have a Degree and can pursue a Career in another Field?
Now is a better time than ever to become a nurse practitioner, no matter your background. The projected job growth of an NP is significantly faster than the average, and the pay is six figures. However, the reasons to become an NP are more important than money or employment. You will make a difference in the lives of the people in your community daily. If you wish to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree, we have a fabulous list for you to find nursing schools in your state.
Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse-Midwife who has been a nurse for 12 years, primarily in women’s health. She is passionate about caring for children with developmental disabilities, as her son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is currently working as a freelance writer and consultant and is passionate about advocating for her patients, students, and profession.