If you’re reading this, you might be considering becoming a nurse practitioner. Congrats! That’s an exciting first step. Although it may seem daunting, I’m here to help simplify the road to NP for you. As a recent NP graduate, I feel qualified to walk you through the steps to get there.

Step 1: The first step is to earn a high school diploma or a GED. Pretty straightforward. Let’s move to step 2!

Step 2: Next comes applying to a registered nursing program and becoming an RN. This step can either entail earning an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, depending on the program completed.

Step 3: After nursing school, the next step is to take a standardized national licensing exam, known as the NLCEX-RN, and to apply for licensure in the state where you will practice as an RN.

Step 4: Next, it is important to gain experience as an RN, in whatever field interests you. A solid foundation as a nurse will prepare you to become an excellent NP. Furthermore, many NP programs require a minimum of 1-2 years of RN experience before being admitted.

Step 5: This step will differ based on the degree attained in step 2. For associate-prepared nurses (ASN), the next step would be to attain a bachelor’s degree. For bachelor’s-prepared nurses (BSN), move directly to step 6.

Step 6: Now, it is important to determine your desired NP specialty (family, women’s health, mental health, pediatrics, geriatrics, acute care, etc.) and research applicable NP programs. Doing your research will be crucial in determining the right program and specialty track to fit your educational goals.

Step 7: Apply to an NP program and earn a graduate degree. This step can include earning either a master’s (MSN) or a doctorate (DNP) degree, depending on the program completed. The decision to pursue a DNP degree is a personal one, and an MSN is all that is required to practice as a nurse practitioner.

Step 8: Next, apply for state licensure and attain national certification by examination in your NP specialty. There are several national certification bodies for nurse practitioners, depending on preference and specialty. The two most common certifying bodies for NPs are AANPCB and ANCC.

Step 9: Land your dream job as a nurse practitioner in your chosen specialty. It may take time to find the right fit for you, so be patient!

Step 10: Now that you are a licensed, certified, practicing NP, you can consider earning a DNP degree (if not already attained) or pursuing further specialization. There are many post-graduate certificates that can be completed by nurse practitioners to expand their knowledge base and scope of practice.

As you can see, there are several routes one can take to become an NP, and the “best” option really depends on you and your goals. Although it may seem like a long road, becoming an NP is an extremely fulfilling endeavor. I wish you the best of luck on your educational and professional journey!

Madeleine Skousen, MSN, FNP-C

Madeleine has been an APPAA contributor since 2020. Madeleine received her family nurse practitioner degree from Georgetown University.