Becoming A Nurse Practitioner Without A Nursing Degree – A Guide

how to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree

Nursing practitioners (NPs) play a pivotal role in the healthcare industry, offering a bridge between patients and medical care. Their proficiency in identifying medical conditions, administering treatments, and offering preventive healthcare services renders them invaluable in areas facing a shortage of doctors. The profession has seen a surge in demand, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a remarkable 26% growth in employment from 2018 to 2020. With a median salary of $109,035 per year in 2019, the allure of becoming a nurse practitioner is undeniable.

However, the path to becoming an NP is often thought to require a conventional nursing degree. But what if you don’t have such a degree? Can you still tread the rewarding path of a nurse practitioner? The objective of this article is to tackle these inquiries and offer an extensive manual on the path to becoming a nurse practitioner, even if you don’t hold a nursing degree.

Why Become A Nurse Practitioner?

Before diving into the specifics of how to become an NP without a nursing degree, it’s important to understand why someone might aspire to this profession. Nurse practitioners hold a unique position in healthcare, blending their nursing skills with advanced clinical expertise. Here are a few compelling reasons to consider this career path:

Career Growth – As mentioned earlier, the demand for NPs is soaring. The opportunity for career advancement and job security is substantial.

High Earning Potential – With a median annual salary surpassing $100,000, nurse practitioners enjoy a competitive income in the healthcare sector.

Independence and Responsibility – Nurse practitioners frequently operate autonomously, identifying diseases, issuing medication prescriptions, and delivering primary healthcare services. This autonomy is attractive to those seeking a significant role in patient care.

Fulfillment – The job satisfaction derived from making a difference in patients’ lives can be profoundly rewarding.

Can You Become An NP Without Being A Nurse?

The short answer is yes. While a traditional nursing degree is the most common route to becoming an NP, it’s not the only path. If you don’t hold a nursing degree but aspire to be an NP, you can explore alternative routes that lead to this esteemed profession.

Is There A Nurse Practitioner Program for Those Without BSN?

One of the primary concerns for individuals without a nursing background is whether there are nurse practitioner programs that do not require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Fortunately, there are options available, and they are designed to accommodate career changers and individuals with non-nursing degrees.

How To Become An NP Without A BSN?

how to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree: 

Step 1 – Know What the Regulatory Requirements are

Prior to commencing your path towards becoming a nurse practitioner (NP), it is vital to have a clear understanding of the regulatory prerequisites within your specific state. Each state in the United States has its own set of regulations governing the requirements for NPs, including educational prerequisites, clinical experience, and licensure exams. Be aware that these regulations can vary significantly, so understanding your specific state’s guidelines is paramount.

Step 2 – Acquire a Degree in a Related Field

If you don’t possess a nursing degree, you can initiate your NP journey by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Many bachelor’s degree programs in healthcare or science provide an excellent starting point. Consider fields such as biological sciences, public health, or psychology, as they frequently cover fundamental scientific courses necessary for nursing.

Step 3 – Complete Prerequisite Courses

In preparation for advanced nursing education, you will likely need to complete prerequisite courses. Typically, these courses encompass topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and occasionally statistics. If your initial degree did not cover these fundamental topics, you can find accredited online university programs or community institutions offering these courses. Ensure that the programs you choose adhere to the accreditation requirements set by your state’s nursing board.

Step 4 – Gain Healthcare Experience

Prior healthcare experience is a crucial component of your journey to becoming an NP. Consider pursuing roles such as an EMT, paramedic, or medical assistant. These positions not only enhance your resume but also provide invaluable firsthand experience in patient care. Additionally, many master’s programs require applicants to have prior healthcare experience.

Step 5 – Take Part in a Direct Entry or Accelerated Master’s Program

For individuals without a nursing degree, accelerated or direct-entry master’s programs offer a viable pathway. These programs are specifically designed for individuals in your situation and compress the required coursework and clinical work into a shorter timeframe, typically ranging from 15 months to three years. Several reputable programs, such as Columbia University’s MDE program and Vanderbilt University’s PreSpecialty Entry Option, cater to aspiring NPs without a nursing background.

Step 6 – Accomplish the Needed Clinical Hours

Following your classroom-based education, gaining practical experience becomes imperative. State-specific standards may vary, but you should be prepared to complete hundreds of clinical hours, often under supervision. Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities are typical locations where you can fulfill these clinical requirements. Some states may stipulate that these hours must be completed in specific fields, such as pediatrics or mental health. In addition to fulfilling the prerequisites, clinical hours also offer valuable chances for networking and enhancing your skill set.

Step 7 – Take and Pass Certification Exams

In order to attain certification as a nurse practitioner (NP), it is imperative to successfully complete a certification examination. These examinations are administered by two prominent organizations: the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Adequate preparation is crucial, and resources such as review sessions, mock exams, books, and online materials can be valuable aids in your journey. Consider forming study groups, as collaborative learning can be highly effective.

Step 8 – Apply for State Licensure

Once you have completed your coursework, clinical hours, and certification exams, the final significant step is obtaining your state license. Licensing requirements vary from state to state but generally involve submitting an application to your state’s nursing board, providing documentation of your education and clinical experience, and paying a licensing fee, which typically ranges from $100 to $300. Additionally, certain states might necessitate background checks or interviews as components of the licensing procedure. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree is indeed possible, and the alternative pathways outlined in this guide provide viable options. The role of nurse practitioners is in high demand, and their contributions to modern healthcare are invaluable. If you aspire to embark on this rewarding career path, don’t be discouraged by the absence of a nursing degree. With determination and the right educational path, you can become a nurse practitioner and make a significant impact in the healthcare field.


Scroll to Top