One of the best things about entering the nurse practitioner career is that there are multiple ways to do so. Unfortunately, this also makes planning your NP education very confusing. Depending on where you are in your education, it will take varying amounts of time to become a nurse practitioner.
The following outline will give you an idea of the time commitment required to become an NP depending on where you are in your educational path.
I am currently a high school student…
If you are currently a high school student, your first step on the NP career path is to complete an undergraduate degree in nursing (Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing). You can expect this to take four years. Then, you need to attend a nurse practitioner program. A master’s degree in nursing (MSN) program is the quickest route to becoming a fully certified NP. Completed on a full-time basis, these programs take about two years to complete. If you decide to work as a nurse while you further your education, you can expect a part-time MSN program to take at least three years, maybe more depending on how quickly you complete required coursework.
Bottom-line, if you are currently in hight school you’ve got four years of undergraduate education followed by a two year master’s degree program totaling six years of schooling to become a nurse practitioner if you take the most efficient path.
I currently have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field…
If you already have a bachelor’s degree but it isn’t in nursing, you’re in luck. There are a few accelerated programs offering a shortcut to the nurse practitioner profession. These programs require two to three years to complete.
If there isn’t an accelerated program that meets your needs, you will need to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many nursing schools have BSN programs for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major. These programs take one to one and one-half years to complete. Following your BSN program, you must complete a nurse practitioner program to get your master’s degree in nursing (MSN). This requires two to three years of schooling. Ultimately, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing and choose not to enroll in an accelerated MSN program, it will take you anywhere from three to five years to become a nurse practitioner depending on which program you choose.
I currently have an RN degree and do not have a bachelor’s degree…
If you are an RN but do not have a bachelor’s degree, some schools offer RN-MSN programs catering to your specific needs. These programs allow you to become a nurse practitioner in about three years.
If you cannot find an accelerated RN-MSN program, your first step will be to get your BSN degree. RN to BSN programs take about one year to complete. Once you get your BSN degree, then you need to complete a nurse practitioner program to get your master’s in nursing (MSN) degree. These programs take about two to three years to complete. So, overall you will need about three to four years of schooling to become a nurse practitioner without an accelerated program.
I currently have an RN degree and a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field…
Yes, if you have an RN and a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than nursing, there are specialized programs for you too. Programs tailored to RN’s holding bachelor’s degrees take about two to two and one-half years to complete.
If you cannot find one of these specialized programs, your path will be the same as for students with an RN degree that do not hold a bachelor’s degree as outlined above. This route ultimately takes three to four years of schooling.
I currently have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)…
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), you are in luck. The only step you need to take towards becoming a nurse practitioner is getting your MSN degree. This takes on average two to three years depending on if you complete your NP program on a part-time or full-time basis.
When planning your nurse practitioner education regardless of which path you choose, remember that schools vary in the amount of time they require to complete their NP programs. Many schools also allow students to complete courses at their own pace. If you choose to attend your NP program on a part-time basis, it may take you longer to finish your program.
Best of luck in planning your NP education!