So You Want to Be a Nurse Practitioner? Choose the Right Program

Marie Napolitano, PhD, FNP; Tracy A. Klein, PhD, FNP


October 22, 2012

In This Article

Degrees Offered for NPs

As of September 2012, the applicant to an NP program has a choice of a master's degree or the DNP degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provides a list of Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)-accredited graduate programs by location and degrees offered but not by clinical program. The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC ) also maintains a list of accredited masters and doctoral programs in nursing. Using these lists, the applicant can visit the school Web sites to find out what specific programs are offered.

The number of DNP programs is increasing exponentially. Although the AACN declared that all newly graduating NPs should have DNP degrees by 2015, enactment of this decree may be postponed for multiple reasons.[1] NPs who initially earn a master's degree can go on to earn the DNP later in a program that has a post-master's option. Some DNP programs also permit students to obtain a "master's in passing" on the way to the DNP degree.

During this transition, many states accept either a master's or doctoral degree for licensure as an NP, although some states have identified specific dates by which all students must have a DNP to be initially licensed as an NP. It is important for prospective students to consider both a program's characteristics and how well it matches requirements for licensure as an NP in the states where they want to practice.