How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Without Nursing Experience

While some people have their sights set on becoming nurse practitioners at a young age, others of us didn’t make the career choice early on. Perhaps we thought we wanted to become physicians but later expanded our view of healthcare, or entered the world of business and became disillusioned with climbing the corporate ladder. Or, maybe we were simply indecisive. Fortunately, there are plenty of paths allowing non-nurses to enter the NP profession.

If you don’t have a nursing degree and think the nurse practitioner career sounds like it might be a good fit for you, you aren’t alone. I receive e-mails everyday from non-nurses seeking insight on entering the NP profession. For most individuals holding a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing there are three potential paths to become a nurse practitioner.

Path #1- MEPN Program 

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 schools 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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Path #2- Stepwise Degree Approach

If taking out 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 allowing students to keep their day jobs further offsetting the cost of education.

Then, 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, make sure to check 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 much more affordable cost.

Path #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 already 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. While not all schools offer accelerated options for aspiring NPs, MSN and DNP programs are prevalent.

Which path will you take to the nurse practitioner career?



14 thoughts on “How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Without Nursing Experience”

  1. A degree is a degree unless you have experience. Nothing is more valuable than having direct patient care experience. You cannot just learn from reading. You need to have real world application and experience. Great NPs are those with a strong clinical nursing experience AND build on their previous knowledge and skills with new ones.

  2. Hi Jennifer, 

    I am happy to help. You have 2 options for becoming an NP. 
    1. Attend an RN-MSN program. Many programs are onlint giving you the flexibility to work as an ADN while completing your education. Then, you can work as a nurse practitioner with your MSN while pursuing your DNP (or, work on your DNP full-time).
    2. Complete your BSN, many schools offer an accelerated way to go from RN to BSN. Then, complete a traditional BSN-DNP program. You likely could complete your BSN quickly as some of the credits from your BA should transfer. This gives you more options as to where to attend school for your NP degree.
  3. nurse practitioners are people who want to diagnose and treat patients without taking the trouble to go through medical school and residency.

  4. Hello! First of all, fantastic site!
    My question is similar in nature to Jennifer’s – but a bit of a twist…

    I am currently in healthcare administration – I have a BA and MBA. After working on the admin side of healthcare for a large hospital system, I’m really interested in crossing over to the bedside to round out my perspective. It also wouldn’t hurt to just round out another possible career path when I get tired of sitting at a desk! Or alternatively, make me a better administrator with the added insight. It sounds like DNP is what I need to be shooting for now right?

    I am located in Southern California/Los Angeles. Do you have any suggestions for how to go about this so that I don’t need to quit my job? Cost effective > speed in my case since I do want to continue to build out my current career and have income.

    Thank you!!

  5. Hi Joanne, 

    Given your situation, I would recommend starting with an MSN rather than a DNP. This will speed up your path to becoming a nurse practitioner. You are already very highly educated so don’t necessarily need a doctorate. You can always go on to get your DNP later if you would like but in the immediate timeframe it will save you time and money to stop at the master’s level. 

    The most cost effective way for you to become a nurse practitioner while continuing to work will be to get your RN degree. This may be done at a local college. Many have evening classes to accommodate working students. Then, you can attend an RN-MSN program online which will be the most flexible option. Here is a list of online NP programs that lead to a nurse practitioner degree

    Hope this helps!

  6. I am looking at a local MEPN program in Arizona. The question I have is they do not give an MSN option to continue. Just an option to continue on to a DNP program. If I choose to do the MEPN program would I then need to do an MSN program I order to become an NP? Some have said one can just do a post-masters certificate and then would be able to practice. I am just looking at different options and would like someone else’s opinion.

  7. Hi Bobby, 

    Some schools now only offer a DNP for nurse practitioner specialties. Other MEPN programs offer NP specialties as an MSN track. With either type, you may work as an NP as long as you graduate with a nurse practitioner specialty. 

    If you do not complete a nurse practitioner specialty either for your MSN or DNP (ex. Nurse Educator), then, you would need to get a post-master’s in a nurse practitioner specialty in order to work as an NP. 

    Did I do an OK job of explaining that?

  8. Yes, I think that makes sense. Just to clarify, I could do an MEPN program and then do a post-masters certificate and practice as an NP?
    My other option would be to do an MEPN program, then do an MSN or DNP program to practice as an NP?

  9. Hi Bobby, 

    You would not need a post masters to practice as an NP if you complete an MEPN program. MEPN program students graduate with an RN degree, and an MSN degree. 

    Provided that your MSN concentration has a nurse practitioner focus, you will be set once you complete the program. 

  10. Erin,

    Thank you for the clarification. One additional question, if the MEPN does not have a focus, and the program specifies that they do not award an MSN with the MEPN would one need only to get a post-master’s certificate to practice as an NP?

  11. I have a Bachelor’s degree, my RN licensure and a MSN. I have worked as a Psychiatric Nurse for many years, both in a major hospital and a doctor’s office. What does it take to be able to add NP to my name, in California? Thanks so much!

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