Future Nurse Practitioners: Before You Choose Your Classes, Read This

I always loved registering for classes as a student. To date myself, when I was an undergrad, course catalogs were printed in addition to being posted online. I relished rifling through the physical copy of the course catalog evaluating my options for the year. Being pre-med didn’t give me much control of my schedule and class selection, but a girl can dream, right?

Once I choose the subjects I would tackle for the upcoming semester, I poured over my planner setting my weekly schedule. Attempting to fit chemistry, calculus, and Spanish class sections into the most favorable arrangement, I also set maximizing sleep and Friday afternoon fun as a top priority.

While it can be tempting to take a course load filled with ‘fun’ classes or those you might simply find interesting, if you plan to become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, pick your college courses with intentionality. Nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs often have strict prerequisite requirements. Lacking a required class could set your admission into a professional program back a year or in some cases even more.

Selecting courses relevant to your future career path isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t sure exactly which path you’ll pursue or to which schools you will apply. Fortunately, most nurse practitioner programs have similar entry requirements. If you are planning to apply to NP schools in the future, consider adding these classes to your course schedule for the upcoming school year:

  • Anatomy and Physiology (2 semesters) – Yes, A&P is the bane of many nursing students’ existence, but two semesters of the course are oh-so-necessary for laying the foundation for your future in the medical field.
  • Biology and Chemistry – Much of what you will learn as a nurse practitioner student is based on the fundamentals of biology and chemistry. Yes, chemistry. Two semesters of each subject will help you fare best on NP program apps. Overachievers may consider taking organic chemistry as well. The course proves helpful for mastering pharmacology content later on.
  • Statistics – Many undergrads don’t naturally think of statistics courses when considering prerequisite requirements for NP programs. But, schools often require these credits. Taking a course in statistics helps keep your options open when applying to MSN programs. And, no, another higher level math course like calculus won’t fill a statistics requirement.
  • Psychology – Nurse practitioners treat mind and body so a background in psychology is a must. If your schedule allows, sociology can be an interesting add-on.
  • Lifespan Development – Likely found in your school’s psychology or teaching department, a course in human development may be required for acceptance to some nurse practitioner programs.
  • Nutrition – A class in nutrition isn’t required by many NP programs, but in the interest of keeping your options open, it’s worth a look. Not to mention, the class provides interesting information for life in general, particularly if your undergrad diet consists mainly of beer and microwave pizzas.
  • Microbiology – Mastering the basics of disease origin and transmission is central to the nurse practitioner career. Get started understanding these concepts with an undergrad course in microbiology. While the topic may not be required for admission to all NP programs, it gives you a head start on your education.

How do you plan to fit NP program prerequisites into your schedule?

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