Once a professional nurse is ready to move on to the next level in his/her career, several opportunities become available. Completing the study and licensure requirements necessary to earn the designation of NP "Nurse Practitioner" is a great commitment, but one that pays off in terms of earning potential and job satisfaction.
Size yourself up. Most NPs have already completed their baccalaureate training in nursing, attained their RN licensure, and have practiced as an RN for at least 1 to 2 years. Of course, as with most educational opportunities, there are exceptions. Programs do exist for non-nurses to complete all levels of education in one multi-year curriculum.
Determine the specialty area you'd like to pursue. Some example NP areas are acute care NP, Certified Nurse Midwife or Occupational Health NPs. For a comprehensive listing, consult the websites below.
Find and apply to a graduate school of nursing that fits your career, geographic and program needs by consulting the National Student Nurses Association, which features an interactive database that you can search using your specific parameters.
Complete the required NP coursework at your selected institution. This often results in an NP and a Masters of Science in Nursing degree, but can vary based on your particular school.
Sit for licensure testing, as required. Licensing rules may vary by state, find your particular state's requirements at the Nurse.org, or contact your State government department of licensure or consumer affairs. Generally testing consists of one of the components of the NCLEX test. More information can also be found at the National Association of State Boards of Nursing.
Congratulate yourself on your commitment, and get ready to begin your job search or apply for your promotion.
Not a nurse yet, but already looking toward your specialization? Some educational institutions offer an extended year curriculum that enables you to complete all of your education from beginning to end, earning an RN and then an NP on the way. See resources below.