Becoming a nurse practitioner is a bit more time intensive than becoming a registered nurse. In addition to the four years it takes to earn a nursing diploma, a nurse practitioner -- no matter your specialty -- takes another two to three years of schooling. But the extra time doesn’t go unrewarded. Nurse practitioners can earn as much as $96,630 a year or more, while registered nurses make closer to an average of $66,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not a bad trade-off for $30,000 more a year, don’t you think?
Enroll in an accredited nursing program at your local college or university. A bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, or BSN, is your best bet. It’s often the preferred degree for most graduate programs in nursing. During the four years it takes to complete a BSN, you’ll take classes in nursing, anatomy, physiology and nutrition, among others. You’ll also complete supervised clinical rotations in pediatrics, maternity and surgery.
Sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, in the state you plan on practicing. Passing the NCLEX-RN certifies you as a registered nurse, and you can officially begin your nursing career. RN licensure is also a prerequisite to nurse practitioner programs.
Enter a master’s of science in nursing, or MSN, program. Advanced-practice registered nurses -- which include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse specialists -- must hold at least an MSN. For OGNPs, or obstetric-gynecology nurse practitioners, look for a program with an emphasis on women’s healthcare. You’ll take classes in health care policy, clinical reasoning, advanced health assessment and advanced women’s healthcare, among others.
Seek advanced certifications to improve employability and demonstrate your skills in OB/GYN medicine. Consider earning certificates in maternal newborn, electronic fetal monitoring or inpatient obstetric nursing to help further your career -- though all are voluntary certifications.
- If you currently hold an associate degree in nursing, or ADN, your employer may be willing to reimburse you for completing an RN-to-BSN program. The BSN can then be used to enter an APRN master’s degree program.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook - Registered Nurses, May 2011
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Education and Training – Family Physicians and Nurse Practitioners
- National Council of State Boards of Nursing: Consensus Model for APRN Regulation
- University of Cincinnati: Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
- National Certification Corporation: Certification Exams
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
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