Nurse practitioners (NPs) are some of the most highly educated nurses who provide patients with primary care and other important, high-level medical services.
While NPs have similar duties to registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners have the medical authority to diagnose patients, order tests, and prescribe drugs and fluids. They also may specialize in certain specialties, such as family care, mental health, obstetrics, or pediatrics.
Nurse practitioners have more knowledge and the authority to perform patient care duties with complete autonomy. This is because they cover more complex and in-depth topics when attending Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. Registered nurses, on the other hand, are only required to complete an associate or bachelor’s level degree.
This article will explain how you can become a nurse practitioner and advance your nursing career (and how many years that will take).
What is an MSN program?
MSN programs allow RNs with a bachelor of science degree in Nursing (BSN) to level-up their careers.
MSN programs offer students advanced knowledge in several core areas. These include pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment, among others. Additionally, an MSN expands a nurse’s skill set in research, healthcare-related politics and political implications, leadership, and communication.
Courses in MSN programs often include:
- Health care ethics
- Clinical practicum
- Health care policy
- Statistical methods
- Data analysis
- Nursing theory
- Nursing practice
Many MSN programs offer concentrations and specialties, particularly for those interested in becoming nurse practitioners. For example, Goodwin nursing students have the option to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) through our MSN offerings.
How long does it take to get an MSN after getting a BSN?
To enroll in an MSN degree program, candidates must first become an RN. This can be done through a two-year ADN program, four-year BSN degree program, or combination of an ADN and RN-to-BSN degree (32 months). All program pathways are designed to train RNs and qualify them for licensure. Candidates must then take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive their RN license.
After obtaining a BSN degree, the next step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to enroll in an MSN program with an APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) clinical specialty. The clinical specialty you choose will depend on your interests and career goals.
The training in an APRN-MSN program typically takes between two to three years to complete, as students need to complete around 30-50 credits.
How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner after obtaining a BSN?
Nurse practitioners must have either a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. As a result, it usually takes six to eight years of schooling in total to become an NP.
As previously mentioned, NP candidates must complete initial RN training, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, apply for a state-issued RN license, and complete the conferral of a bachelor’s degree before being eligible to enroll in an APRN-MSN program.
The years of schooling required to become an NP can vary, but break down as follows:
- A bachelor’s degree (BSN) takes an average of four years (or shorter, if you choose the ADN to RN-to-BSN route).
- A master’s degree (MSN) takes an average of two to three years.
Finally, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) takes an average of four years, though this is not required to become a nurse practitioner.
Remember that the time it takes to complete an MSN degree and become an NP will vary depending on the program’s credit requirements and the specialization.
Many colleges and universities, like the MSN programs at Goodwin University, offer flexible in-person, online, and hybrid programs where students can attend full or part-time. This allows students to continue working and complete their studies on their schedule. For the APRN-MSN programs at Goodwin, the length of time to complete each specialty also varies:
- The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program can be completed in 27 months.
- The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program can be completed in just seven semesters.
Additionally, the leadership-focused MSN program can be completed in as few as 20 months part-time.
All master’s in Nursing programs can be completed entirely online, so you do not need to put your career on hold to become an advanced nursing provider.
After completing a graduate degree program, candidates are qualified to sit for the certification exams used to license nurse practitioners. This will also vary by specialty. Two popular options are the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) exam.
Remember that the time it takes to complete an MSN degree and become a nurse practitioner will vary depending on the program and if you are a full-time or part-time student.
Why level up your BSN—and your career—with an MSN?
Enrolling in an MSN program and becoming a nurse practitioner, like an FNP or PMHNP, is extremely rewarding (both personally and financially). Nurses with MSN degrees typically earn higher and steadier pay, have greater autonomy in their work, and have greater job satisfaction.
RNs make an average of $77,000 annually, and NPs earn an average of more than $120,000 annually, according to the BLS. And completing an MSN can also open doors to high-paying nursing leadership roles.
NPs often use the experience they gain in MSN programs to work as a nursing instructor in classrooms or teach patient care through clinicals. They also find jobs as administrators, researchers, and policymakers, taking on a significant voice in healthcare.
Lastly, some advanced nursing practices may require an advanced skill set beyond what typical RNs can responsibly learn on the job, such as working with cardiac patients, in a neonatal unit, or as a forensic nurse.
MSN programs often allow students to choose a specialty to go more in-depth with their studies and become experts in their field. For example, at Goodwin University, students can specialize in the FNP and PMHNP programs.
Health care is a growing field with constantly changing knowledge, practices, and tools. Enrolling in an MSN program is a great choice to prepare you for your future as a healthcare professional and nurse practitioner.
If you are an RN looking to advance your career, earn more, and specialize, learn more about our graduate nursing degrees. Goodwin’s flexible nursing programs, at the master’s level, can be completed entirely online, making it easier than ever for students to continue working and attending school.
Register for our virtual info sessions for our FNP and PMHNP programs, or contact us directly for more information. Financial aid is available, and our dedicated staff of financial aid advisors will help you find opportunities to turn your dream of an MSN into a reality.
Let’s start your future today!