Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

As you may expect, each state has its own requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner. Therefore, nurse practitioner education requirements vary greatly, from as little as 30 hours of post-bachelors coursework, to a masters degree.

Types of Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are often segmented into four types.

  • General Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Nursing Degree Options

There are a number of degree options to consider when going for the nurse practitioner designation. Each state requires coursework in the area of specialization, so it's important to know what kind of nurse practitioner you want to be licensed as before enter your degree program.

Areas of Specilization

Most nurse practitioner degree programs offer an area of specilization. These may include:

  • Geriatric Primary Care
  • Gerontology Acute Care
  • Family Primary Care
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Health Systems Management
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Nurse Anesthetist

Master of Science in Nursing

Commonly referred to as an MSN, the Master of Science in Nursing program offers the core skills and training necessary for licensure as a nurse practitioner. Coursework may include:

  • Theories and concepts of nursing
  • Advanced Nursing Research
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health Assessments
  • Advanced nursing roles and responsiblities
  • Nursing and the Healthcare System
  • Nursing Policies
  • Curriculum Design and Development


This accelerated program offers RNs an opportunity to go straight to a masters in nursing, often receiving a bachelors degree in the process. The program is usually intensive and requires full time study.

Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA)

The MSN/MBA dual degree program is excellent for nurses who wish to enter into a more administrative role.

Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Public Health (MSN/MPH)

THe MSN/MPH program prepares a nurse for work in the area of public health as a nurse educator, public health educators or community healthcare worker. In this role, you may teach programs like breast self-examination, osteoporosis prevention, or healthy lifestyle for controlling diabetes to diverse populations with varying age, gender, and socio-economic background.

PhD in Nursing

A PhD in Nursing or Nursing Doctorate program offers advanced training in nursing theories, leadership, and practice. Many doctoral students go on to become academic nurses, including the areas of nursing research and teaching.

Nurse Practitioner Licensure

Each state requires nurses and nurse practitioners to be licensed. One of the prerequisites for becoming a nurse practitioner is being a registered nurse (RN). In face, every state requires nurse practitioners to hold an RN license. In addition, 24 states require a master's degree and 35 states require national certification. This State by State Nurse Practitioner Requirements shows each states requirements for licensure. Because laws and regulations change frequently, be sure to check with the State Board of Nursing in the state where you wish to become a nurse practitioner for the most recent requirements.

National Certification

As with licensure, each state has specific requirements about which national certifications it will accept. Two of the most common are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Other certification organizations may include: