Put simply, there are a few vital steps toward becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP):
- Step 1: Earn an advanced degree: either a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice
- Step 2: Earn national certification in a patient population focus area
- Step 3: Earn state Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) licensure
But when it comes to the degree you’ll need to become a Nurse Practitioner, many nurses wonder: do I need an MSN? A doctorate? Will I one day need a doctorate? We’ll cut to the chase: currently, nurses do not need to obtain a doctorate to become a Nurse Practitioner. Will that change? Let’s take a look at the facts we know today.
History of Changes to NP Requirements
In 2004, the member schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to endorse the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. This decision called for moving the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice from the master’s degree to the doctorate-level by the year 2015. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) include Nurse Practitioners as well as Certified Nurse Midwives, Nurse Anesthetists and Clinical Nurse Specialists.
In April 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) made the commitment to move all entry-level nurse practitioner (NP) education to the DNP degree by 2025.
While no mandate has happened yet, it’s possible this could happen in the future, and there is certainly a larger number of doctoral programs out there—more than than there was 10+ years ago.
In fact, according to this 2015 editorial in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, there has been rapid growth in the number of Doctor of Nurse Practice programs available (growing from 20 in 2006 to 251 in 2013…and probably more today, seven years later). But the MSN remains the go-to degree to become an NP…and the AACN’s recommendation has not been fulfilled.
What’s The Bottom Line?
So, has the AACN’s recommendation that all NPs hold doctorates by 2015 been fulfilled? No. Is it currently a mandate for NPs to hold DNP degrees? Also no.
That could change, but as of now, the MSN is the most common path way to becoming an NP. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners article above says, “There is so far no indication that certifying boards are considering changing the educational requirements for taking the certification exam,” it states, and goes on to say, “ …we do not yet have evidence that acquiring a DNP degree either after certification (MSN-DNP) or as initial education for certification as an ARNP has any impact on patient, population or system health outcomes.”
Bottom line: experts agree for now that the MSN prepares Nurse Practitioners and other APRNs effectively. To date, there has been no further movement toward a required DNP for NPs.
How Do I Become a Nurse Practitioner?
Put simply, to become an NP, you need a master’s or doctoral degree (and depending on your state and population focus, educational requirements vary, certification, state licensure, and national certification.
Here’s more about the requirements to practice as a Nurse Practitioner, but know that it all starts with earning the right degree, such as one of American Sentinel’s two MSN Nurse Practitioner specializations: Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner and Family Practice Nurse Practitioner.
Should I get a MSN or DNP?
Both the MSN and the DNP are excellent degrees, depending on your goals. For some, the doctorate is ideal, appealing to nurses who are interested in following an executive, informatics, education or professional leadership path.
For others, the MSN is the better pathway and allows specialization in an area such as nursing education or infection prevention and control.
If you are interested in one of our nurse practitioner degrees, the DNP, or possibly both, visit us online, where you can review the details and reserve your seat for our next Nurse Practitioner or DNP Open House. Explore your options and think about your short- and long-term goals, then make the decision that is best for you!
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