How to Apply for a DEA Number as a Nurse Practitioner

If you’ve recently graduated from a nurse practitioner program, you probably can’t wait to start writing prescriptions. This is, after all, one of the factors distinguishing your new career as an NP from your former as a nurse. Prescription writing privileges are a reflection of your new knowledge and what you have worked so hard to achieve as part of advancing your education. And, it is essential for treating many of your patients.

Graduating from a nurse practitioner program and passing the national certification exam doesn’t automatically grant you the ability to sign prescriptions. Yes, these things are likely required by laws in your state, but in order to write prescriptions for many medications (controlled substances) you must obtain approval at the federal level by applying for a DEA number. Let’s take a look at the process of getting a DEA number as a nurse practitioner.

What is a DEA number?

A DEA number is an identifying series of letters and numbers assigned to a healthcare provider by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It consists of 2 letters, 6 numbers, and one ‘check’ digit. The first letter identifies the type of provider, for example ‘M’ for midlevel provider. The second letter is the first letter of the provider’s last name.

Legally, a DEA number is required in order to write prescriptions for controlled substances. The number is also used unofficially as an identifier by other parts of the healthcare system such as pharmacies.

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What is the process of applying for a DEA number?

Before applying for a DEA number, you must be licensed to practice in your state of residence. If your application for licensure is still pending, you must wait until the licensing process for your state is complete. Once your NP license is active, you may begin your application. Apply as soon as possible to avoid any delays to your practice.

To apply for a DEA number, visit the Drug Enforcement Administration website to begin your application. Have your social security number, state license information, and credit card handy. The online DEA application has six sections to complete. These sections require information regarding your personal and practice information, business activity and prescribing schedules, state license, background, and payment.

The second section of the DEA number application inquires as to which schedules of drugs you plan to prescribe. If your state places limitations on which medication schedules nurse practitioners are permitted to prescribe, make sure to choose only those schedules that are within the scope of practice for your state. For example, nurse practitioners practicing in Georgia may not prescribe schedule II controlled substances. So, an NP in Georgia applying for a DEA number should indicate he/she plans to prescribe only schedule III, IV, and V medications on the DEA number application.

How much does a DEA number cost?

The Drug Enforcement Administration has recently raised the price of obtaining a DEA number. For nurse practitioners, a DEA number now costs $731 for a three-year period.

The cost of a DEA number can be a hefty burden for a new grad to bear. Fortunately, many employers offer assistance in paying for licensing costs and other related expenses such as obtaining a DEA number. If you have a job lined up, review your contract to see if the cost of obtaining your DEA number will be reimbursed by your employer. If you have yet to find a job working as an NP, make sure to negotiate an allowance to cover the cost of licensing and certification in your contract.

How long does it take to get a DEA number?

Completing the application for a DEA number itself takes just 20 to 30 minutes. The waiting period to receive your DEA number is about four to six weeks. For DEA number renewals, the waiting period is about four weeks.

For most nurse practitioners, acquiring a DEA number will be essential to your practice. If you have recently graduated from an NP program, start the process as soon as possible to avoid a delay in starting your new career.


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26 thoughts on “How to Apply for a DEA Number as a Nurse Practitioner”

  1. In several states there is an additional step involved. In addition to your state license, you may be required to complete some level of state controlled substance also. Depending on the state, this might be required before applying for DEA or after you receive your number; and to add to the confusion, a few states require initial state narcotics licensing, then DEA, then return to state for final approval. Fortunately, the DEA has a page dedicated to this confusion that will help you know which type of state you are:

  2. Great tip, Erik! This is true, some states require additional licensing/ steps for NPs to prescribe controlled substances. 

  3. As a new licensed/certified NP, I didn’t think I could apply for DEA without already having an employment status. The DEA request a place of business. If I am not employed as an NP yet, can I apply and use my home address as my place of business until I obtained employment.
    Thank you for your input

  4. Hi Jennifer, 

    If you are not employed, you could try using your home address to initially obtain your license. Just be sure to change your address in the DEA online system when you do get a job. Or, you can wait until you are hired to apply. 

  5. I am a new grad and just applied for the DEA but the degree option under the online section does not have an option for Nurse Practitioner, it only have labels of Medical Doctor of Doctor of other speciality. Do I chose Medical Doctor option to get the application through? please advise.

  6. Hi Rthakur,
    I had that same issue then I start over. In the beggining when they are ask for the business activity, choose MLP- nurse practitioner NOT just practitioner. Tgen when you click the begin button, you’ll see the questions on section 3 are different and appropryfor NP. Good luck

  7. Just a heads up I live in Ohio and I applied for my DEA and got an email back stating I need my CPT-e number first. I have 90 days to submit this number or else I forfeit the 731.00 unless I ask for a refund before that.

  8. An NP friend of mine had a different hurdle to jump in PA. He had to be employed and have a collaborative agreement with a physician before he could apply for a DEA license. Thank goodness Texas will forego the DPS registration (an additional license that has to be renewed yearly) as of September 2016.

  9. I am in the same situation as the friend of EMS. I am a new graduate. As a resident of PA, seeking employment in PA, I cannot obtain my DEA license unless I am employed and have a collaborative agreement in place. As I am interested in providing telepsych services in other states, would it be beneficial for me to try to obtain my DEA license through another state? As of now, I am told by a prospective employer that it could take up to six weeks for the state of PA to approve my prescriptive authority. Only after I receive it would I be able to apply for the DEA license. That would mean a job would have to be held for me for up to several months!

  10. As a board certified psychiatric clinical specialist in the state of MA. I have prescriptive authority.
    However, when applying online for a DEA # the only choice is a Nurse Practitioner. Any advice?
    Previously, I was issued a DEA # which expired in 2005.

  11. I had a DEA license under a Dr. I no longer with in one institution and now I am in a different institution with a completely different set of DRs. Is this a renewal DEA or a new application process?

  12. Maria Del Carmen Ramirez

    I am a family NP, and a Certified Medical Examiner, through the National Registry of Federal Motors. I have recently opened my own medical clinic, and am self-employed. I am expanding my services.

  13. Dr. Judith Walters

    In my state of Florida, effective October 1, 2018, I will be licensed as an APRN with prescriptive rights. How do I apply for a DEA number? I have maintained CEUs in psychopharmacology as part of my certification. Will I need prove of additional training?
    Judi Walters

  14. I am new grad NP. Do I need a practice agreement or need to be practicing as an NP in order to obtain a DEA number? I am still working as an RN, but currently job searching. I would like to be proactive and have an NPI number and a DEA number for when a job opportunity arises. Both the application for an NPI and DEA number require a practice/business address. What should I add in this section? Should I use the address I am currently in as an RN?

  15. I have a DEA license and an Arkansas address. I will be working in Missouri next year. Do I need to apply for a new DEA for Missouri with the Missouri address?

  16. I can’t wait to get approved for with a dea# my life’s calling is to help people ever since the day I came into the relm of consciousness. Thanks, Joseph swanner

  17. Beatrice Gibson

    I am a NP certified but work as an independent contractor. I presently do not have employment but would like to get a Dea license for the near future. Thank you

  18. Lisandra Hernandez

    Hello I am in the state of florida, miami. I was wondering if a can apply to my DEA even If I dont have a job as a NP yet? I am new grad.

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