How to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Are you thinking of becoming a Nurse Practitioner or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Nurse Practitioner, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Nurse Practitioner job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners diagnose medical issues, prescribe medications, develop treatment plans, and work closely with other medical professionals. If you are a good problem solver and enjoy working with people, the nurse practitioner role may be for you. In this article, we discuss the eight steps required to become a nurse practitioner:

Earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN).

Anyone interested in becoming a nurse practitioner must earn a bachelor of science in nursing. There are three paths to earning a BSN:

  • College/University: Attend a traditional four-year college or university and graduate with a BSN.
  • Accelerated BSN: If you have an undergraduate degree in another field, you can apply for an accelerated BSN program. In addition to the prerequisite science coursework, you can expect to spend two years completing an accelerated BSN.
  • RN-BSN: Nurses with an Associate degree in nursing (ADN) can attend a Registered Nurse BSN program. Programs vary in length.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Nurse Practitioner?

83% of people working as a Nurse Practitioner earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Nurse Practitioner?

  • Excellent Communication
  • Computer Literacy
  • Outlook
  • Written Communication
  • ANCC
  • DNP
  • Diagnosis
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Nurse Practitioner in the United States.

Pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX).

After earning your BSN degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). After passing the national board certification exam, you can apply for a state nursing license.


Gain work experience through nursing.

Although you can go straight from your BSN into an MSN program, many professional nursing organizations recommend working as a registered nurse for several years first. This work experience allows you to decide on a specialty area and gain valuable hands-on experience. You can then find nurse practitioner jobs through your local job boards, college job fairs, and academic advisors.


Earn advanced degrees.

A master of science in nursing (MSN) is the minimum requirement to work as a nurse practitioner. An MSN program takes 18 months to two years to complete. You can also pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, which requires an additional two to three years of study. During advanced degree programs, nurse practitioners typically specialize in a particular patient population. Nurse practitioners can specialize in several areas, including cardiac care, pediatrics, oncology, women's health, and psychiatry.


Pass a national nurse practitioner (NP) certification board exam.

All prospective nurse practitioners must take a certification exam after completion of their graduate program. The two organizations that offer certification exams are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Once you have passed your certification exam, apply to your state licensing board to receive your NP license. Requirements vary from state to state.


Complete continuing education requirements.

Nurse practitioners must complete continuing education credits to keep their certification active. Requirements vary by state and by certification type, but most need renewing every three to five years.

Nurse Practitioner Career Path

Nurse Practitioner

2 - 4Years of Experience
$94K - $138K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Nurse Practitioner

2 - 4Years of Experience
$91K - $132K /yrMost Likely Range
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Adjunct Nurse Practitioner

No Years of Experience Reports
$90K - $128K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Nurse Practitioner Career Path

New Grad Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner
Assistant Manager of Nursing
Senior Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner Manager
Adjunct Nurse Practitioner
Senior Manager of Nursing
Assistant Director of Nursing
Associate Director of Nursing
Director of Nursing
Senior Director of Nursing
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Related Careers in the Healthcare Industry

Interested in other Healthcare careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Nurse Practitioner skills. Discover some of the most common Nurse Practitioner career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Registered Nurse Case Manager
13% skills overlap
16% transitioned to Registered Nurse Case Manager