How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner offers some of the services that were formerly offered exclusively by doctors and to become a nurse practitioner you must become a registered nurse and complete a graduate degree and board certification.


First, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse, with a four-year undergraduate degree in nursing, as well as the successful completion of the NCLEX RN examination offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, there are almost three hundred and fifty programs that offer one or more nurse practitioner programs. The minimum qualification for nurse practitioners is a master’s degree and some nurse practitioners have PhDs in nursing.

License and Certification

You must pass the NCLEX RN examination to become a registered nurse, the first step to becoming a nurse practitioner. You will also have to regularly renew your license for your state, and some nurses will practice and hold a license in more than one state.

Once you have completed your graduate education, you will complete certification in one of ten areas, including acute care, family, or pediatrics, to name a few. Certification requires that you write and successfully pass a test in your specialty area. You can find out more on the American Nurses Credentialing website.

Tips and Advice

If you are not in college, you need to complete your high school diploma or the GED. It is important to take courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Once completed apply to a college that offers a four year undergraduate degree to become a registered nurse.

Though you will have to choose an area of specialty, it is not important to do so in your first year of your undergraduate nursing degree program, unless your school asks that you do so. While in school, try to get as many different healthcare experiences that you can: volunteer or work in a care facility, get work in the hospital or clinic, get experience working with children and teens, especially if you plan to become a pediatrics or family nurse practitioner. These experiences on your resume will help you when you apply for your first nursing position once you graduate.

Once you have completed your four-year degree and are ready to apply to a school that offers a nurse practitioner program, it is important to know that some schools will only accept candidates that have one or two years of professional practice as a nurse. This means you will need some nursing work experience before applying to graduate school.

Different Types

As a nurse practitioner, you can specialize in fields such as neonatal health or gerontology. You may also have a sub-specialty such as oncology, sports medicine or orthopedics. There are some nurse practitioners that open their own offices and others that will work in a physician’s office, a care facility, a hospital or in home healthcare. Additional opportunities include working for insurance providers or, if you have a PhD, a career in academia as a professor of nursing.

Nurse practitioners promote public health, practice preventative medicine and offer some counseling services, and like all nurses, the job outlook is excellent.