How to Become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Job Duties and Responsibilities
Types of APRNs
Six Common Steps to Becoming an APRN
- Get an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
Becoming an RN requires at least an ADN and passing the NCLEX exam. If you’re an ADN-prepared RN, you’ll also have to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing before you can move on to the master’s degree that becoming an APRN requires.
- Graduate with Your Advanced Nursing Degree
A Master of Nursing degree (MSN) program combines classroom study with clinical experience in your specified healthcare area and usually takes two years. A Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, degree may take anywhere from 18 months up to four years to complete. You can find postgraduate degree programs in traditional and online formats. Online programs require you to complete in-person clinical hours, typically at a local site.
- Obtain the Required Hours of Clinical Experience
In conjunction with BSN, MSN, and DPN practice coursework, you will need to gain the required clinical experience for an advanced practice registered nurse. Your area of specialization and your institution will determine your clinical experiences. For example, clinical hours for a certified nurse midwife range from 600 to 1,200; nurse practitioners can expect to need 500 hours of clinical experience while certified registered nurse anesthetists must complete more than 2,000 hours and administer about 850 anesthetics. Completion may take anywhere from two to five years.
- Pass a National APRN Certification Exam
Although you must pass a national certification exam regardless of your APRN specialty, your specialty determines which exam you need to take. For example, NPs can either take the national family nurse practitioner (FNP) exam through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) offers the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Exam. National certification exams are rigorous and require months of study, but each exam’s specific content and format may vary.
- Apply for Licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
After passing the appropriate APRN certification exam, you need to apply for an APRN license in the state you wish to practice as an APRN. Even though every state requires a certification for nurse practitioners before becoming a licensed APRN, additional licensure requirements vary among states. Once board certified, you may practice as an APRN. It is important to note the scope of practice could vary widely among states (PDF 598 KB), such as whether independent practice is permitted.
- Begin the Search for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Jobs
Now that you are certified and licensed, you are ready to enter the APRN workforce. Depending on your specialty, the settings in which you practice will vary, however, it is typical for APRNs to work in hospitals, clinics and private practices. Not sure where to start looking for advanced practice registered nurse jobs? Organizations like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners provide searchable job centers. If you have a facility already in mind, visit their website for job postings or call the human resources department.