With graduation season comes certification time for nurse practitioner program graduates. Signing up to take the national nurse practitioner certification exam can be overwhelming. Not only does preparing for the exam require hours of study, you need to research the exam itself. Multiple organizations offer certification exams for nurse practitioners making the decision on how to become certified a bit confusing. This week, we will look at the various components of the NP certification exam including certifying bodies, cost, and the exam itself so you can make an informed decision when it comes to obtaining your NP certification.

In all but a few states, nurse practitioners are required to be nationally certified in order to practice. This national certification involves taking and passing a standardized certification exam through one of several nursing organizations. NPs in California, Kansas, and Indiana are not required to be nationally certified, but instead are licensed based on completion of an accredited nurse practitioner program or work experience. For the majority of NPs that are required to become certified, there are a few options for which certification exam to take.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers nurse practitioner certification for the widest range of specialties including Acute Care (through 2014), Adult (through 2014), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health (through 2014), Family, Gerontological (through 2014), Pediatric Primary Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health.

The ANCC is currently revising their exam offerings, and for some specialties will only continue accepting applications to take the exam through the end of 2014. In most cases, new exams are being added or revised to replace those that are being phased out. For example, the Adult Nurse Practitioner and Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification exams will be phased out but replaced by the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care exams. Year-round, computerized testing is available for all exams.

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) certifies graduates as Adult Nurse Practitioners, Family Nurse Practitioners, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners. The ANCC and AANPCP are the two largest certifying bodies for nurse practitioners. Although the AANPCP does not offer exams in as many specialties as the ANCC, it is still widely respected and utilized. The AANPCP offers year-round computerized testing for its exams.

The National Certification Corporation

Women’s Health and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program graduates may be certified through the National Certification Corporation. These exams are offered in a computerized format year-round but may also be taken on paper once a year in the fall.

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation (AACNCC) certifies Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. Through the end of 2014, graduates may take either the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner exam or the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner exam. After 2014, only the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care exam will be offered. The AACNCC offers year-round computerized testing. Students living more than 3 hours from a computerized testing site may apply to take the exam on paper. The paper exam is offered periodically throughout the year.

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

Aside from the ANCC exam, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program graduates may certify through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). The PNCB offers both Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner certification exams. These exams are computerized and offered year round.

Overall, NP certification exams are similar between certifying bodies. There are, however, a few differences. Over the course of this week we will compare these exams helping you make an informed decision when it comes to your NP certification. Up next? Comparing test content and format.


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