How to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse: 7 Steps

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Are you interested in a nursing career, but aren’t sure how to become an advanced practice nurse? Concordia University Texas can help. Read about the steps needed to enter into your chosen profession and why the steps and time are worth it.

nurse wearing red scrubs

If you’re looking to begin a career in healthcare, you should know that becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) opens the door to tremendous career opportunities. While becoming an NP is an academically rigorous path requiring the completion of hundreds of hours of clinical practice, it’s well worth the effort. Nurse practitioners are just one of many advanced practice nursing roles, and each can represent a great career that impacts the lives of countless patients.

What is involved in becoming a nurse practitioner? Nurse practitioner education requirements (in most cases) include completion of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as well as a graduate degree; both involve a great deal of clinical practice. Once you become an NP, you may choose an area of specialty, which is just one benefit of pursuing advanced nursing practice.

We’ll explore how to become an advanced practice nurse — including the steps you need to take to become a nurse practitioner, like earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree through a program like Concordia University Texas’ Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

1. Start with a BSN Degree

The first step toward fulfilling nurse practitioner degree requirements is to earn a BSN degree. A traditional BSN program takes four years to complete and includes general education coursework (with a strong concentration in math and science), as well as nursing-specific coursework. In addition, you must gain a great deal of hands-on clinical experience (the number of hours varies by state or school) in order to graduate.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN® and Obtain Licensure

Once you’ve completed a BSN, the next step toward fulfilling nurse practitioner requirements is attaining RN licensure. To become a licensed RN, you must earn a proficient score on the NCLEX-RN®. This exam, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), evaluates both nursing knowledge and critical thinking skills. Successful completion of the exam serves to ensure qualification for work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

To register for the NCLEX-RN®, you must first complete all requirements from a nursing program and apply for the proper nursing credential from your state board of nursing. Since nursing license requirements vary by state, you should check with your state regulatory board before applying.

students sitting at desks in classroom

Want to learn more about how to be successful in passing NCLEX-RN®? Here are 9 tips to help you get started.

3. Gain RN Experience

Most graduate programs require applicants to gain 1-2 years of real-world clinical experience as an RN before admission. While working as an RN, you can explore various specialties to determine your future area of focus. Clinical placements in the CTX ABSN track allow students to provide care to real patients at top local healthcare facilities, and is your first of many opportunities to explore care across a variety of practice areas.

Use this time as a practicing nurse to continue to hone your skills and find the area that most appeals to you. This can inform your future time as a nurse practitioner, or even give you the insight you need to pick a different advanced practice nursing specialty.

4. Enroll in a Graduate Program

Once you’ve earned a BSN and become a RN, the next nurse practitioner education requirement is the completion of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Be sure that the program you choose is fully accredited and has a high graduate certification rate before enrolling.

  • Earning an MSN is a minimum requirement for nurse practitioner certification. MSN programs build on the foundational knowledge imparted through a BSN degree. By completing an MSN, you’ll gain an advanced understanding of nursing practice. Once pursuing graduate study, you may choose to focus your coursework on a specialty — be it a specific setting (such as acute care) or age group (such as pediatrics).
  • Earning a DNP, while not a requirement, builds on MSN content, providing advanced clinical training. With a DNP, you’ll get an in-depth, doctoral education that will equip you to provide expert patient care, open the door to supervisory roles, and potentially increase your income. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended the DNP degree as the standard for NPs since 2004. And in 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) moved to require DNP degrees as the industry standard for NPs by 2025.

5. Pass the National NP Certification Board Exam and Obtain NP Licensure

Once you’ve completed a graduate nursing program, you’ll need to pass a national board certification exam specific to your area of focus. Licensing criteria varies by state, but all states require a proficient score on a national board certification exam in your chosen specialty. These exams assess general advanced practice nursing competency as well as understanding of specialty populations.

lab room in ABSN site building

After passing this exam, you can apply for initial NP licensure in your state. Please note that NPs must renew their certification and licensure regularly by meeting continuing education and other requirements. For more information about these requirements, contact your state’s regulatory agency.

6. Find Employment

Nurse practitioners are employed in a vast array of settings, including hospital outpatient and inpatient units, private practices, emergency rooms, community health centers, rural health clinics, and urgent care clinics. Nurse practitioners are ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top healthcare jobs. The flexibility and versatility of the position, as well as the salary and demand for the position, make it an appealing goal for some. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the role will grow by 40% by 2031, with opportunities for employment almost regardless of where you choose to live.

Numerous hospitals offer NPs paid fellowships, allowing them to experience rotations in a variety of specialties with the hope of possible employment upon their completion. This is a great opportunity for new NP graduates just beginning their careers.

How the CTX ABSN Track Can Help You Meet Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

If you are just starting to look into Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs in order to become a nurse practitioner, it might seem daunting and your dreams of becoming a NP might seem too far off. Concordia University Texas can help. Our 16-month Accelerated BSN program curriculum can help you launch into your NP career as soon as possible. This program is comprised of three main components:

Online Coursework

At CTX, online-based nursing theory coursework will provide you with a solid foundation in nursing theory, nursing clinical practice, pharmacology, leadership, and more. You’ll complete your online coursework through an intuitive e-Learning platform that allows you the freedom to choose when and where to complete your course requirements.

Skills and Simulation Labs

Another key component of your accelerated nursing education at CTX is experiential learning in our state-of-the-art nursing labs, which emulate the clinical environments you’ll experience as an RN. In skills labs, you’ll practice and hone nursing skills, from vital sign assessment to IV insertion, in a supervised, supportive setting.

CTX accelerated nursing student standing in lab room

Clinical Placements

CTX has developed strong community partnerships with healthcare organizations throughout the Austin, Dallas and Central Texas area to provide you with quality clinical experiences. During your clinical rotations, you’ll work alongside our experienced clinical faculty to provide patient care under supervision and gain diverse nursing experiences.

Clinical placements also allow you to network with area healthcare employers. If you make a good impression, you may have an advantage when it comes time to apply for jobs and MSN programs.

CTX ABSN students working in sim lab

Interested in the ABSN program track at Concordia University Texas? Read more about accelerated nursing school to see if it would be a good option for you.

Ready to Become a Nurse Practitioner? Let Us Help You Get Started

Considering the advantages of becoming a nurse practitioner — including career opportunities, a generous salary, increased autonomy, and a wider scope of practice — the investment of time and effort is worth it. From earning a BSN degree, to practicing as a nurse, to an advanced degree and choosing your specialization, it’s clear to see how the ABSN track at CTX can help you start along this path.

Now that you know how to become an advanced practice nurse, contact us today to learn how CTX can help you kick-start your career in nursing, starting with a BSN from our 16-month ABSN track.