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Nurse Practioner Schooling and University Program: Nurse Practioner Degrees, Schools and Education

A nurse practitioner program provides the advanced training and skills a nurse needs to become a licensed Nurse Practitioner (NP). Nurse practitioners have more clinical independence and authority than registered nurses (RNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and are trained to work closely with physicians, surgeons and doctors to treat and diagnose patients. Nurse practitioner degree programs and nurse practitioner schooling training programs prepare students for a rewarding career and provide plenty of opportunities to complete clinical training so that they can get the hands-on experience they need.

Types of Nurse Practitioner Degrees

Nurse practitioners receive a master's degree after completing a nurse practitioner program and most are registered nurses (RNs). Nurse practitioner degrees are available in both online and offline formats, and most states require employers to hire only those who have at least a master's degree in the field. Students can find nurse practitioner degrees at:

  • Community colleges (most grant only an associate's degree)

  • Hospital-based training programs

  • Nurse practitioner universities

  • Colleges and universities offering a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree or a doctorate in nursing program

What Do Nurse Practitioner Programs Provide?

Nurse practitioner programs train students how to diagnose and manage common medical conditions and chronic illnesses. Students who successfully complete a nurse practitioner program learn how to work with different types of patients, establish rapport, provide counseling and education, conduct health screenings, work closely with physicians to diagnose and treat illness, and handle health problems in an emergency situation.

How to Be a Nurse Practitioner

Students interested in learning how to be a nurse practitioner can talk to an admissions counselor at nurse practitioner universities and nurse practitioner schools to learn about different programs and educational tracks. Nurse practitioner programs vary only slightly by nurse practitioner university and nurse practitioner schooling centers.

In order to be a nurse practitioner, a student needs to do the following:

  • Meet all requirements to become a licensed RN. This includes an associate degree in nursing, a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) or the completion of a diploma program at an accredited college or hospitals.

  • Complete a master's degree in nursing (MSN)

  • Achieve registered nurse status

  • Complete a state-approved advanced training program in a specialized field, such as family practice or women's health

After completing a nurse practitioner program and nurse practitioner schooling, a student must be licensed by the state where he or she wants to practice. The State Boards of Nursing is responsible for issuing licenses and certification to nurse practitioners. Some nurse practitioners may need to fulfill additional requirements and obtain certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Nurse practitioners who have obtained their state certification can move forward to receive national certification from the American Nurses Association or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Other organizations that offer certifications and other credentials for nurse practitioners include:

  • Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

  • National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses

  • Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

Attending a Nurse Practitioner University

Nurse practitioner universities and nurse practitioner schools offer both classroom and hands-on training for students interested in nurse practitioner degrees and related nurse practitioner programs. Nurse practitioner education programs at nurse practitioner schools typically include the following types of courses:

  • Pathophysiology

  • Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

  • Pharmacology

  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnostics

  • Integrative Practicum

  • Patient Counseling

  • Hospital and Clinic Malpractice

  • Emergency Preparedness

  • Hospital and Clinic Malpractice

  • Ethical Principles

  • Health Care Policy and Delivery

  • Clinical Management

Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Students who are working full-time and those that live too far from a nurse practitioner university may choose to complete online nurse practitioner programs. Online nurse practitioner programs provide similar curriculum and training to regular nurse practitioner programs, but all of the training activities, lectures and some quizzes and tests are completed over the web. Some online nurse practitioner programs do require students to fulfill clinical training requirements and hands-on training at an area clinic or training facility.

Career Options with a Nurse Practitioner Degree Program

The Mayo Clinic reports that nurse practitioners are in high demand to provide health maintenance services, health promotion services and sick-care services. Nurse practitioners must maintain clinical competency with continuing education and self-directed professional development programs.

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average annual income for nurse practitioners in 2008 was $81,723. The most common areas of specialization in this field include: Cardiology, Pediatrics, Primary Care, Gastroenterology, Oncology, Gerontology and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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Nurse Practioner Schooling and University Program: Nurse Practioner Degrees, Schools and Education