Registered nurses who wish to move up their careers in the healthcare industry are pursuing more advanced education to become nurse practitioners (NP).
NPs can obtain more responsibility than RNs, as well as autonomy, and specialize in specific areas of medicine while earning a higher salary.
You can become an NP by earning an MSN – Master’s of Science in Nursing or a DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
You can become a nurse practitioner quicker and easier if you already hold an ADN or a BSN degree.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Does an RN Become a Nurse Practitioner?
- 2 Is There Online RN to NP Programs?
- 3 Tuition and Costs of RN to NP Programs
- 4 Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners
- 5 Potential NP Careers
- 6 RN to NP Salary Comparison
How Does an RN Become a Nurse Practitioner?
Currently registered nurses can become nurse practitioners in a number of ways.
You can find programs designed specifically for RNs with ADN or with BSN to become NPs offered at multiple schools.
If you hold an ADN, you will have to complete the BSN coursework before you move up.
However, many schools include it in the accelerated ADN to MSN programs so that RNs can earn their degrees in a more effective way.
RN should also decide if they want to earn an MSN or pursue a more advanced DNP degree.
What Are the Education Requirements?
There are different options for RNs when going for an NP career.
However, the first thing to keep in mind is that one of the two degrees (either MSN or DNP) will have to be earned.
The following programs are designed and offered specifically for registered nurses:
ADN to MSN – Nurse Practitioner
This program, which is also known as an RN-BSN to MSN, is designed for the RNs holding an ADN and wishing to become a nurse practitioner.
The benefit of this program is that students can obtain both BSN and MSN degrees without the need to take each program separately.
Once you complete the BSN part of the program, some schools will require you to pick the specialty you’d like to master for the MSN-NP degree.
You can choose from an Emergency Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and more specialties.
Depending on the format of study you pick, full-time or part-time, the program can take from 2 to 4 years to complete.
For example, an ASN/ADN to MSN program is offered at Vanderbilt University.
Students can choose the NP specialty from Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Pediatric NP, Emergency NP, Psychiatric Mental Health NP, Family NP, and Women’s Health NP.
BSN to MSN – Nurse Practitioner
Those who already finished the BSN can take the BSN to MSN program.
Typically, it requires 50 to 55 credits to obtain the graduate degree and takes about 2 years to complete (depending on the format of study).
Similar to the ADN to MSN program, for the BSN to MSN you will also have to choose the specialty to study.
A BSN to MSN program is offered at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
You can pick one of the following specialties:
- Family Nurse Practitioner.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner.
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.
BSN to DNP – Nurse Practitioner
The BSN to DNP program is designed for nurses holding a BSN to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
It is more advanced than MSN since you can earn a doctorate.
Similar to the MSN program, it comes with multiple NP specialties.
You will need 78-84 credits, depending on the specialty, and spend about 3 years to complete the program.
A BSN to DNP program is offered at the University of San Diego with various specialty choices.
You can pick from the Family Nurse Practitioner, dual Adult-Gerontology/Family Nurse Practitioner, dual Pediatric/Family Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
Are Any Credentials or Certifications Needed?
Since there are many NP specialties, it’s beneficial, and sometimes required, to have individual credentialing for an RN’s desired concentration.
After graduating from an MSN or DNP program in your specialty, you will be eligible to take the credentialing exam in this field.
The certifications you can obtain from the American Nurses Credentialing Center include:
- Pediatric Primary Care NP Programs.
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs.
- Adult-Gerontology, Acute Care & Primary Care NP Programs.
- Psychiatric-Mental Health NP Programs.
Is There Online RN to NP Programs?
When enrolling in the program, many RNs feel they can’t keep up with a load of classes on campus, as they are busy at work.
There are online RN to NP programs available to accommodate busy schedules.
This is an ideal option for busy RNs who wish to keep working, have time for family while in the program, or who simply live too far from the university.
Through flexible online classes, you can access faculty and staff, as well as complete the coursework at your own pace.
Additionally, any clinical requirements are usually arranged in the hometowns of students.
Spotlight Online RN to NP Programs
Loyola University New Orleans
Through the online program offered by Loyola University, RNs can earn an MSN with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialty.
Students taking the full-time study can finish the program within two years.
Upon completion of the program, graduates can become certified FNP.
Other features of the program include:
- No BSN required (ADN and RN license are required).
- The program is fully accredited.
- 48 credit hours, including 720 practicum clock hours, are required.
George Washington University
At the GW School of Nursing, you can take an online RN to MSN program, which allows the ADN-educated nurses to earn both BSN and MSN.
Students can become the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP or the Family NP.
The program takes from three to four years.
- Clinical hours to be arranged with an approved preceptor.
- Courses are online but some campus visits may be required depending on specialization.
- Online programs may be subject to state authorization requirements; check to see if your state qualifies.
University of South Alabama
The RNs holding an ADN or a BSN degree can take both MSN or DPN online programs at the University of South Alabama.
Students can acquire such specialties as Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, and more.
- Some clinical experience may be required to be accepted into certain programs.
- Dual-role NP concentrations available (such as FNP/Adult-Gerontological Acute Care).
- Classes are offered online; some on-campus visits may be required.
Medical University of South Carolina
At MUSC, you can find an online post-BSN to DNP program and choose from Pediatric NP, Adult-Gerontology NP, Psychiatric Mental Health NP, or Family NP specialties.
The program can be taken both full-time and part-time.
Some additional features of the program:
- No GRE scores required.
- A practice improvement project will be completed during the last year of the program under the direction of faculty.
- Roughly 1,040 to 1,310 clinical hours required for graduation.
Despite the degree level, nurses entering an RN to NP program should be graduates of an accredited school with either an ADN or BSN degree and have an active RN license.
Additional requirements depend on the type of degree and may include the following:
- Current resume.
- Completion of certain prerequisite courses.
- Personal statement or essay.
- Multiple letters of recommendation.
- The minimum amount of professional nursing experience may be required.
- Transcripts of all colleges attended.
- Minimum GPA (typically 3.0 or higher).
RN to NP Classes and Courses
Students taking an MSN or DNP program will study a mix of advanced core nursing courses with specialized courses in the specialty of their choice.
For example, an RN to FNP covers courses on women’s health and pediatrics.
After you complete this coursework, you will typically have to get some clinical hours, where you gain hands-on supervised experience.
The MSN to NP program at Michigan State University includes the following courses:
- NUR 814: Health Care Policy and Politics.
- NUR 807: Clinical Decision Making.
- NUR 806: Research for Practice Nurses.
- NUR 802: Theoretical Foundations and Role Development for the Advanced Practice Nurse.
- NUR 838: Care for Aging Individuals.
The University of Pittsburgh offers the BSN to DNP – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program with the following courses:
- Introduction to Genetics and Molecular Therapeutics.
- The Science of Health Care Delivery.
- Neurobiology of Psychiatric Disorders.
- The Diagnostic Physical Exam Across the Lifespan.
- Management of Chronic Health Problems of Psychiatric Patients.
Tuition and Costs of RN to NP Programs
No matter what type of degree and study format the student is pursuing, they need to cover the costs for an RN to NP program.
This includes tuition, program/school fees, and course materials.
The costs can vary depending on the school and type of degree.
Online students can save on some expenses such as commuting and parking.
Here’s an example of expenses you can expect.
Frontier Nursing University charges the following for their NP programs:
- Tuition for ADN to MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner – $48,025.
- Tuition for MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner – $36,160.
- Tuition for Post-Master’s DNP – $15,820.
These costs don’t include additional expenses such as technology and lab fees, etc.
Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners
Nurses are in great demand in general, and skilled RNs such as nurse practitioners have positive employment opportunities as well.
According to the BLS, the employment rate will grow by 31% by 2024.
Because of the increasing aging population and the need for quality healthcare, the NPs will have high levels of job security.
Besides, they can work in various settings, including:
- Outpatient care centers.
- Physicians’ offices.
- Specialty hospitals.
- Consulting services.
Potential NP Careers
Nurse practitioners have the necessary education and experience for a variety of nursing roles with high responsibility.
Some jobs they can take on include:
- Adult-Gerontology Primary/Acute Care NP.
- Neonatal NP.
- Emergency Care NP.
- Psychiatric Mental Health NP.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist.
- Family NP.
- Women’s Health NP.
- Pediatric Primary/Acute Care NP.
- Certified Nurse Midwife.
RN to NP Salary Comparison
Besides the increased autonomy and higher levels of responsibility, NPs also receive increased pay.
While registered nurses make $68,450 per year, NPs make on average $107,460.
The numbers can, of course, vary based on the location, employer, education and experience, and other factors.
For many RNs, the increased salary is more than worth the investment in education.