Education Options for Second Career Nurse Practitioners

Non-nurses launching second careers as nurse practitioners have a few options when it comes to their education. Navigating these paths can be confusing. You may already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and wish to avoid retaking previous courses. You may have budgetary constraints to consider in making your professional transition. With several different nursing degrees on the academic market, which is right for you?

Before making a major career transition, it is important to evaluate your needs and interests to make sure becoming a nurse practitioner is the next best professional step for you. As part of this process, think about your academic decision making. Is completing a NP program in a timely manner or in a cost effective manner more important to you? Do your personal, financial, and work situations allow you to attend school full-time? Or, will you need to explore paths that accommodate part-time students? Consider your needs and priorities as you select your path to becoming a nurse practitioner. 

Option #1- MEPN Programs 

A few schools offer super-accelerated ways for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing to become nurse practitioners. These programs go by a variety of titles including accelerated programs, bridge programs, or Master’s Entry Programs in Nursing (MEPN).  These programs typically take just two to three years to complete on a full-time basis. The first year or so, students learn basic nursing skills earning an RN degree. The second year, students complete the courses required to earn an MSN degree, allowing them to become nurse practitioners.

MEPN programs are an excellent option for non-nurses seeking to enter the nurse practitioner profession. They offer a quick, seamless way to enter the field. You will pay for this added convenience, however. These programs are among the most expensive options when it comes to the NP education. There are also very few of these programs across the country so they are very competitive and may require that students relocate.

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Option #2- Stepwise Degree Approach

If taking on a mountain of students loans and possibly relocating to attend an MEPN program doesn’t appeal to you, there is still a semi-accelerated path to becoming a nurse practitioner for non-nurses.

First, obtain an RN degree. Many schools across the country offer RN programs at an affordable cost. These programs are often delivered in a format that allows students to keep their day jobs further offsetting the cost of education.

Second, attend an RN-MSN program. There are a few schools across the country that provide a path for students with an RN degree rather than a bachelor’s degree in nursing to become nurse practitioners. Some schools even offer these programs online. If you plan to complete this part of your education immediately following your RN program, review application requirements closely as some schools require nursing experience for admittance. 

Overall, this path is not as expedient as attending an MEPN program, but it does confer significantly more flexibility and can be completed at a more affordable cost.

Option #3- Traditional Approach

The most common route to the nurse practitioner profession is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by a master’s degree in nursing (or even a doctorate of nursing practice). Some schools offer accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing programs for students holding a bachelor’s degree in another field.

This route may take longer to complete than the first two paths but it gives you more options when it comes to selecting your nurse practitioner program.

How do you plan to start your second career as a nurse practitioner?


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