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Nurse Practitioner School Requirements - Admission & Prerequisites


Written By: Sarah Jividen BSN, RN, SCRN

If you have been considering advancing your nursing degree and becoming a nurse practitioner, it is essential to understand what the nurse practitioner school requirements are for the various degree programs.

Becoming a nurse practitioner is nothing to be taken lightly. NP programs can be competitive; however, becoming a nurse practitioner will open career opportunities within the nursing profession that you have never had before.

Employment opportunities abound for nurse practitioners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that:

"Overall employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations." That growth is primarily due to an increased emphasis on preventative care as well as high demand for healthcare services for the elderly population.

In addition to brighter career opportunities, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $115,800 in May 2019.

No matter where you are in your nursing career, it is also more attainable than ever before to advance your nursing career through education. Especially now that online, remote education is becoming a new norm in academia. This makes it possible for those with the busiest of schedules to find a way to manage their studies at times where it is most convenient for them.

One crucial element to understand-that NP school requirements vary and admission requirements for nurse practitioner programs are not standardized. Some nursing programs have slightly different admission requirements than others.

Read on for more information about admission requirements to go back to school and become a nurse practitioner.


One by One Let us go through in Detail the Nurse Practitioner School Requirements (Admission & Prerequisites) for Different Types of Programs


With any NP program, you will want to choose a program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) as well as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). University accreditation ensures that nursing programs have been thoroughly vetted for educational quality and value for students. Accreditation also ensures that the instruction, coursework, and education you receive meets the highest educational standards. In addition, nurse practitioner certification requirements require that your education is from an accredited nurse practitioner program.

→ RN to MSN Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


There are RN to MSN nurse practitioner programs designed for RNs with an associate's degree in nursing (ADN). These programs are usually harder to find than BSN to MSN NP programs; however, there are still many programs available.

RN to MSN programs are known for being intensive and challenging but are also specifically designed to prepare and educate an ADN to work as an NP.

Admissions to an RN to MSN nurse practitioner program are variable depending on your school of choice. But most RN to MSN nurse practitioner school prerequisites include the following:

• An associates degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program
• An unencumbered RN license
• Prospective students must have a strong academic history (requirements vary per individual program, but usually require a 3.0 GPA or above)
• At least one year or more of clinical nursing experience
• 2-3 letters of recommendation
• A completed application for the school you want to attend
• A letter of intent describing what you want to achieve with an NP degree
• An in-face or online video interview
• Prerequisite classes completed with at least a B grade. Prerequisites vary per school and may include:

○ Anatomy and Physiology (with labs)
○ Biomedical statistics
○ Chemistry
○ Microbiology
○ English composition

Before starting an RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner program, prospective students must decide on a specialty. You may need to examine a few different schools to make sure they have the NP program that best suits your academic needs.

Some RN to MSN programs available include:

• Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
• Family Nurse Practitioner
• Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
• Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
• Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
• Women's Health Nurse Practitioner

If you are interested in a nurse practitioner program not listed above, you may want to consider completing a BSN first. There are often additional specialty opportunities with a BSN than if you start your program with an ADN.

→ Direct Entry MSN Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


Direct entry MSN programs are for students who have a bachelor's degree in another non-nursing field and seek to be a nurse practitioner. This type of program combines both a BSN and MSN program.

Admissions to a direct entry MSN nurse practitioner program are variable depending on your school of choice, but most include the following:

• A bachelor's degree other than nursing from an accredited school
• Completion of the GRE (if GPA is high, this requirement may be waived)
• Prospective students must have a strong academic history (required GPA for nurse practitioner school is usually a 3.0 or above)
• Resume or curriculum vitae
• Must possess a strong drive for academia
• 2-3 letters of recommendation
• A completed application for the school(s) you want to attend
• A personal statement or essay describing what you want to achieve as a nurse practitioner
• An interview (either in person or online video)

There are also prerequisites for nurse practitioner school that must be completed (with a minimum of 3.0 or higher, but varies per school) for direct entry MSN nurse practitioner programs. Required prerequisites vary per program but usually include the following:

• Anatomy and physiology
• Microbiology
• Biomedical statistics
• Chemistry
• Nutrition

→ BSN to MSN Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


Keep in mind that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that all advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners, earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. However, it is not a requirement at this time.

Also, in May 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) announced that all entry-level nurse practitioner programs would shift from the MSN to the DNP by 2025. The NONPF made this change to emphasize the need for NPs to have a practice-focused doctoral degree. The DNP emphasizes the clinical aspects of disease treatment and prevention.

Nurse practitioner education requirements to obtain a BSN to MSN are variable depending on your school of choice. But most include the following:

• Bachelors of Nursing degree from an accredited nursing program
• An unencumbered RN license
• Prospective students must have a strong academic history (requirements vary per individual program but usually must be a 3.0 or above)
• At least one year or more of clinical nursing experience
• Must possess a strong drive for academia
• 2-3 letters of recommendation
• A completed application for the school you want to attend
• A letter of intent and achievement goals with an NP degree
• An in-face interview (either in person or online video)

→ BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


If you are a Bachelors's prepared registered nurse, and you want to become a nurse practitioner with a DNP, there are several educations programs out there for you. Most schools require at least one year of clinical nursing experience as a BSN before applying to a DNP program, but these requirements may vary by school.

The DNP prepares NPs with advanced skills in clinical practice and leadership and provides an alternative to the research-based Ph.D.

There are several admission requirements for a BSN to DNP nurse practitioner programs, including:

• A BSN degree from an accredited college or university
• An unencumbered RN license
• A completed application for the university
• Transcripts showing at least a 3.0 or higher
• Previously completed statistics course with a grade of a B or higher
• An in-person or online video interview
• 2-3 letters of recommendation
• Resume or curriculum vitae
• A personal statement or essay describing your goals of achieving a DNP

→ MSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


If you currently hold an MSN and are interested in attending an MSN to DNP nurse practitioner program, you are in luck. Many schools have created DNP programs specifically for those who already have a master of science in nursing (MSN).

To be accepted into one of the MSN to DNP programs, you need to possess already your MSN degree in an advanced practice specialty area. In some cases, MSN degrees with a different health-related professional focus, such as nursing informatics or nursing administration, may be able to apply for some programs.

Admission requirements for an MSN to DNP program vary from school to school, but usually include:

• An MSN degree from an accredited college or university
• An unencumbered RN license
• A completed application for the university
• Transcripts showing at least a 3.0 or higher
• Previously completed statistics course with a grade of a B or higher
• An in-person or online video interview
• 2-3 letters of recommendation
• Resume or curriculum vitae
• Certification within your advanced practice specialty (when applicable)
• A personal statement or essay describing your goals of achieving a DNP

→ Post-Master's Certificate Nurse Practitioner Program Admission Requirements


Sometimes after practicing as an NP or DNP in a particular field, practitioners decide they have a desire to change specialties or work with a different patient population.

The goal of a post-masters certificate nurse practitioner program is to provide an academic pathway for an MSN, NP, or DNP to specialize in a different area of expertise than the one they obtained when initially achieving their masters or doctoral degree. It is an opportunity to build upon current advanced practice clinical skills and knowledge.

Admission requirements for admission into a post-masters certificate program may include.

• A master's degree in nursing degree from an accredited nursing program
• An unencumbered RN license
• Must meet GPA requirements (requirements vary per program but usually must be a 3.0 or above)
• Completion of required clinical hours
• Letters of recommendation
• A completed application for the post-master program you want to attend
• A letter of intent and achievement goals with an NP degree
• For NP certificate programs, must have completed advanced pharmacology, physiology, and physical/health assessment course

Some of the specialties available for Post-master's certification program include:

• Adult gerontology acute care
• Adult gerontology primary care
• Dermatology
• Emergency medicine
• Endocrinology
• Family
• Gastroenterology
• Immunology
• Oncology
• Pulmonology
• Orthopedics
• Neurology
• Midwifery
• Pediatric acute care
• Pediatric primary care
• Sports Medicine
• Women's health
• Psychiatry
• Urology


Online Nurse Practitioner School Requirements


In addition to traditional brick-and-mortar nurse practitioner programs, there are also several online programs available to choose from. Fortunately, advancements in technology have made remote education much more attainable than ever before.

During the current COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent shutdown, most in-person nursing programs have been forced to transfer their educational programs into an online format.

The good news is that both traditional and online NP school requirements are generally the same.


Conclusion


Becoming a nurse practitioner will allow you to advance your clinical knowledge, have more earning potential, practice autonomously, and join a group of elite advanced practice nurses.

While the journey to get there can seem overwhelming at first, it is also extremely exciting and rewarding. You are raising the bar for nurses and the nursing profession as a whole by empowering yourself with advanced education to assist your patients on a whole new level.

Make sure you know what nurse practitioner school requirements are required for you to advance your nursing career to the next level. Soon you will have an exciting career ahead!


Top Questions About Nurse Practitioner School Requirements Answered


What degree do I Need to Graduate Before Applying for NP School?


Unless you are applying to a direct-entry MSN nurse practitioner program (which requires that you have a bachelor's degree in another non-nursing field), then you are required to have at least an associate's degree and unencumbered RN license.

Nurse practitioner education requirements you will need depends on your current level of nursing degree. For example, if your current degree is:

• A bachelor's degree in another field and no nursing degree, then you will need a direct-entry MSN program.
• An ADN, then you will need an RN to BSN program.
• A BSN, then you will need a BSN to MSN program.
• An MSN, then you will need an MSN to DNP program.

Do I Need to Have any Work Experience to get into NP School?


Most universities require that you have at least one year of clinical nursing experience before applying to the nurse practitioner school. Your first year of clinical nursing experience teaches you a lot of on-the-job information that will benefit you in your nurse practitioner program. It makes it possible for you to take the clinical skills and knowledge that you already have and build on them in our advanced nursing education.

Do I need to Take an Exam to Get into NP School?


Many nurse practitioner programs require prospective students to submit their GRE scores. GRE stands for The Graduate Record Examination and is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools.

If you are interested in applying to several NP programs, it might be worthwhile to take the GRE. Some nurse practitioner programs require it, and some don't. Some programs only require the GRE if your GPA falls below a specific range, usually around a 3.0 or lower. Some schools will also accept an MAT score instead of the GRE.

If you know what nurse practitioners you want to apply to, it is always a good idea to look at the requirements for admissions well in advance. If the GRE is required, there are educational materials available for you to start studying to prepare you for success on the test.

What GPA Do You Need to get into a Nurse Practitioner School?


Every nurse practitioner program has different GPA admission requirements. It appears that most schools require a 3.0- 3.2 or higher for admission, but some schools require less and some more. Make sure you research the requirements for the nurse practitioner schools you are interested in applying for in advance or speak to someone in admissions to confirm what the GPA requirements are.

Can I Get into a Nurse Practitioner School with a Low GPA?


It may be possible to get into some nurse practitioner schools with a low GPA. However, most require that you have at least a 3.0 or higher. If your GPA is lower, some schools require that you take the GRE, and if you score high enough, they will wave a lower GPA in lieu of the GRE.

If you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, but your GPA is still too low for admission into any school, then you may want to consider retaking some of your science prerequisites and earn higher grades to lift your GPA. Some prerequisites to consider retaking include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, nutrition, microbiology, and statistics.

How Long Do You Have to Be in School to Become a Nurse Practitioner?


The time it takes to graduate for nurse practitioner school depends on the program that you are enrolled in. It also depends on the school you choose to go to, as the timeframes differ slightly from program to program. Here is the approximate timeframe for each of the nurse practitioner programs:

• RN to MSN nurse practitioner program: 30-36 months (full-time), or 36-48 months (part-time)
• BSN to MSN nurse practitioner program: 15-24 months (full-time), or 24-48 months (part-time)
• Direct entry MSN nurse practitioner program: 20-24 months (full-time), or 24-48 months (part-time)
• BSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: 3-4 years (full-time), or 4-7 year (part-time)
• MSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: 1-2 years (full-time), or 2 to 4 years (part-time)
• Post-master's certification nurse practitioner program: 12 to 16 months (full-time), or 16-24 months (part-time)

What is the Fastest Way to Become a Nurse Practitioner?


The fastest way to become a nurse practitioner is to go to school full-time. Part-time options are available, but can often take up to twice as long. If you are financially able to get through school without working, and you want to finish your schooling as fast as possible, you might want to consider going to school full-time.

How Much Does Nurse Practitioner School Cost?


Nurse practitioner programs vary in price depending on the school; however, they usually fall within the following ranges:

• RN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $22,070 - $231,600
• BSN to MSN nurse practitioner program: $18,810 - $185,280
• Direct entry MSN nurse practitioner program: $22,570 - $222,340
• BSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $26,490 - $254,260
• MSN to DNP nurse practitioner program: $17,660 - $169,510
• Post-master's certification nurse practitioner program: $9,710 - $83,690


Sarah Jividen BSN, RN, SCRN
Sarah Jividen is a healthcare content writer and experienced ER and neuro/trauma nurse. Her writing is focused on the nursing profession, breaking medical news, evidence-based healthcare and wellness trends, and motherhood. When she is not working you might find Sarah playing with her two toddlers, or exploring the great outdoors.