Post Graduate Certificate Programs In Nursing

Last Updated on December 24, 2022

Online Post-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Graduate Certificate  Programs

Post graduate certificate programs in nursing is a short program, after graduation one can become a licensed practical nurse. In a postgraduate diploma in nursing, one can get understanding of different diseases and illnesses that are faced by patients and the ways to treat the same. Programs in Nursing help the professional nurses to broaden their skills, knowledge and also challenges their established goals.

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Post Graduate Certificate Programs In Nursing

A post-master’s certificate (also referred to as a post-graduate certificate) is a pathway for nurses who have earned a master’s degree to gain specialized knowledge. This affords nurses more opportunity and career growth. Post-master’s certificates add another year or two of graduate study and are usually more specialized. Additionally, post-master’s certificates allow nurses with a master’s degree to become certified in niche specialties.

Nurses may also “cross over” to a different specialty than what they focused on in their original MSN program via a post-master’s certificate. For example, a nurse practitioner with an adult-gerontology specialty can become certified in family medicine. Sometimes the core courses they completed in their original master’s program can be applied towards the certificate program.

Would you like to expand or change your advanced practice nursing role? Are you interested in an area that is not the specialization obtained for your MS, MSN or DNP degree? Our certificate programs offer opportunities for you to build upon your clinical skills and knowledge, allowing you to explore new professional directions. 

The purpose of the post-master’s study program is to provide, for nurses who already hold a master’s degree in nursing, an educational route to specialization in an area other than that obtained in their master’s or doctoral program. The program is designed to strengthen or broaden the clinical, or management capabilities of master’s-prepared nurses who are planning a role expansion or role change. 

Post-master’s certificate (PMC) students must successfully complete all didactic and clinical requirements of the desired area of practice. In order to obtain a PMC in nurse-midwifery or in a nurse practitioner specialty, students are required to complete a minimum of 500 supervised hours in direct patient care. The program of study includes academic and clinical courses, and completion results in awarding a certificate of academic achievement of post-master’s study. Completion of the requirements for the PMC is posted on the student’s official Vanderbilt University transcript.

The specialty director develops an individualized program of studies for each PMC student based on evaluation of the student’s prior academic work and a gap analysis of courses/ experiences needed to qualify for advanced practice certification in the student’s desired specialty. The student’s program of study will contain didactic and clinical experiences sufficient to allow the student to master the competencies and meet the criteria for national certification in the population-focused area of practice.

There is also an option to add the DNP degree to your post master’s certificate.  If you complete the certificate as part of the DNP program, you are eligible for federal loans and for scholarships since you will be earning an academic degree (the DNP).Earning the DNP will add an additional 32 credits to your Vanderbilt program of studies so be aware that additional time and money is involved in earning the doctoral degree. The length of the PMC program varies by specialty; consult the program web site for a sample PMC curriculum plan. The DNP program adds an additional 5 or 6 semesters to your program of studies. Students completing the PMC as part of a DNP program of studies are eligible to take the national certification exam as soon as certificate requirements are completed. Students then progress to DNP courses. 

Earning the DNP will add an additional 32 credits to your Vanderbilt program of studies so be aware that additional time and money is involved in earning the doctoral degree. The length of the PMC program varies by specialty; consult the program web site for a sample PMC curriculum plan. The DNP program adds an additional 5 or 6 semesters to your program of studies. Students completing the PMC as part of a DNP program of studies are eligible to take the national certification exam as soon as certificate requirements are completed. Students then progress to DNP courses. 

If earning the DNP degree is a fit with your career goals, you should apply to the nursing practice (DNP) program, not the PMC program. When you get into the DNP application, you will be able to indicate that you want to complete a PMC as part of your DNP program of studies. Applicants interested in completing the certificate as part of  the DNP degree should review DNP program information at https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/dnp/index.php

Post-Master’s Certificate Programs

Post-master’s certificate programs are available in each of the following specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner (FNP/ENP)
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate for Family Nurse Practitioners 
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Lifespan)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Please refer to the specific advanced practice specialty overview for a sample curriculum plan.

As part of the application process, a Post-master’s applicant or a DNP applicant completing a PMC who is not an APRN currently in clinical practice may submit prior course syllabi to be reviewed for VUSN course equivalency. A non-APRN certified applicant who has taken Advanced Health Assessment, Advanced Pathophysiology, and Advanced Pharmacology in the last 5 years (5 years or less at the time of matriculation) must provide the syllabi to be reviewed for equivalency. If the course is determined to be an equivalent course, was taken within the last 5 years and the grade earned was a B- or higher, the course may be waived. Note: Determination of equivalency does not mean that VUSN transfer credit has been awarded. Equivalent courses will not appear on the VU transcript. 

For further information, please email the admissions office at [email protected]

Accreditation

Accreditation Information and contacts

Vanderbilt University is a participating institution in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). North Carolina is a member of SARA, and Vanderbilt is approved to offer programs and courses, such as the MSN, PMC, DNP and PhD programs, that are in compliance with SARA policies and standards.

Why Should I Pursue a Post-Master’s Certificate?

There are several reasons why a master’s-prepared nurse would pursue a post-master’s certificate. As mentioned earlier, nurse practitioners may wish to change specialties, or enhance their current practice. For example, a primary care nurse practitioner may want to become certified in acute care. A family practice nurse practitioner may wish to pursue a mental health certificate. Adding expertise in a clinical specialty helps to increase job prospects as well as provide high-quality care in current practice.

Nurses who hold a master’s degree in nursing may also wish to pursue more administrative or educational roles. For example, master’s-prepared nurses who work as clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) may want to earn certification in education to enhance their practice and expand their career mobility. Nurses with an MSN in nurse leadership may choose a certificate program in informatics, which would help them participate in designing and implementing innovative technology to improve patient care outcomes. Essentially, a post-master’s certificate broadens a nurse’s knowledge base and can help open more doors in their careers.

How Do Post-Master’s Certificates Differ from Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Ph.D. Degrees?

The DNP degree is considered a “terminal” degree for nurses – there is no higher degree option (Ph.D. in nursing degrees are considered comparable to DNP degrees). Another way to view a post-master’s certificate is that it is an education level somewhere between a master’s and doctoral degree. Post-master’s certificate programs differ from DNP and Ph.D. programs in that they may not take as long to complete. Some programs also do not require completion of a capstone project. Of course, this depends on the nurse’s choice of specialty, the school, and the nurse’s educational background.

One can also understand the difference by picturing a tree; the bachelor’s degree is the root, the master’s degree the trunk, and the DNP or Ph.D. the top leafy part. The post-master’s certificate can be any one of the branches reaching off the trunk – each one a different specialty which contributes to the fullness of the tree.

Choosing which program to pursue is an individualized choice and is based on the nurse’s long-term career and personal goals. Earning a DNP or Ph.D. means the nurse has reached the pinnacle of nursing practice and knowledge. For those who wish to reach the very top, a DNP or Ph.D. in nursing program might be the right choice. Master’s-prepared nurses who simply wish to change or enhance their current practice would do well choosing a post-master’s certificate program.

What Is the Difference Between a Nursing Certification and a Post-Master’s Graduate Nursing Certificate?

When it comes to nursing certifications, there are several options for nurses based on their degree level. For example, nursing certifications differ from post-master’s graduate certificates for several reasons. First, the requirements for certification are different. Nursing certifications are offered to RNs with (usually) a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice in a specific specialty. Post-master’s certificates are offered to master’s degree nurses or higher. Second, nursing certifications usually only require a certain amount of clinical experience. Post-master’s certificates usually require completion of a curriculum in order to become certified.

Post-Master’s Certificate Program Requirements

Requirements for admission into a post-master’s certificate program may vary between schools and can depend on the nurse’s education background and current specialty. Requirements may include:

  • Master’s degree in nursing (based on the certificate program, NP licensure is required)
  • Must meet GPA requirements (i.e., 3.0 in MSN program)
  • Submission of a resume
  • Completion of a specific number of clinical hours
  • Provide letters of recommendation
  • Possess a current, unrestricted nursing license
  • For NP certificate programs, must have completed an advanced pharmacology, physiology, and physical/health assessment course

Post-Master’s Certificate Accreditation

Ensuring national accreditation is essential when choosing any nursing program. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is one of the nationally-recognized accreditation bodies in the United States. Their website holds a database with lists of accredited post-master’s APRN programs in the U.S.

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is another agency that accredits nursing programs. Their website also allows users to research programs by state. Some agencies are regionally recognized, but national recognition ensures there will be no difficulty with licensing and transferring schools if needed.

Post-Master’s Certificate Curriculum

The curriculum for post-master’s certificate programs can vary based on the student’s educational background, current practice, and choice of specialty. If not already completed in a master’s program, the following “3 P’s” may be required:

  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Physical Assessment

The amount of credits required to earn a post-master’s certificate varies based on the school as well as the specialty. Some programs can be as low as 12 credits, and some around 36. Certificate programs for nurse practitioner specialties are usually longer because practicum hours are required. The length of time it takes to complete a program is also variable; it depends on the school, program, and whether the student is in a full or part-time status. Additionally, many programs offer online options.

Post-Master’s Certificate Types

Masters-prepared nurses have many options when pursuing a post-master’s certificate. Certificate types may include:

  • Nurse Practitioner Specialties:
    • Adult Gerontology (Acute & Primary Care)
    • Pediatrics (Acute & Primary care)
    • Emergency
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
    • Neonatal Care
    • Psychiatric Mental Health
    • Women’s Health
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Nurse Informatics
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Nurse Leadership
  • Nurse Administration & Management
  • Nurse Education

Different schools offer different certificate options; students are encouraged to research programs to find the one that meets their career goals.

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