What Degree Does A Nurse Practitioner Need

Last Updated on December 28, 2022

There are so many people these days struggling with getting a job and landing the right career. With all the options available, it is hard to know what degree to choose in nursing because there are several kinds of degrees out there that all have different titles. But the question still remains: What Degree Does A Nurse Practitioner Need?

You may find it hard to access the right information on the internet, so we are here to help you in the following article, providing the best and updated information on What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do? ,how long does it take to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. We at infolearners .com have all the information that you need about What Degree Does A Nurse Practitioner Need. Read on to learn more.

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What Degree Does A Nurse Practitioner Need

Nurse practitioners (NPs) save lives every day. They care for patients, oversee treatment plans, research the latest developments in healthcare, and are often educators in their field.

As such, becoming a nurse practitioner and working in the field requires advanced training, education, and many hours of clinical work so that NPs are able to deliver the best patient care possible.

Below, we take a look at the educational requirements you’ll need to complete to become an NP, as well as the difference between the two advanced degrees you can earn in nursing: A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Nurse Practitioner Degrees

1. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

In order to become a nurse practitioner, you’ll first need to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Earning your BSN prepares you for a career as a NP in a few ways.

First, like earning an associate’s degree in nursing, it will prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which you must pass before you can become a registered nurse. You must be a registered nurse in order to become a nurse practitioner.

Second, as you will see below, becoming a nurse practitioner will require you to earn a graduate degree, and virtually all graduate nursing degrees will require you to hold a bachelor’s degree before you can enroll.

Of course, in some states you can become a registered nurse by only earning an associate’s degree in nursing. In these cases, you will need to complete your bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a graduate program. There are, however, many accelerated nursing programs that you can consider to make this process as quick as possible.

After becoming an RN, you can choose to work in the field as an RN for a time (as many nurses choose to do), or you can immediately continue your education to become a nurse practitioner.

2. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

While earning your BSN is the only major education degree a registered nurse needs to practice, nurse practitioners must earn both a BSN and a graduate degree in order to practice. One of the most common graduate degrees pursued by aspiring nurse practitioners is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which is really going to be the lowest level of education you can complete and work as an NP.

Earning an MSN prepares nurse practitioners with the relevant knowledge, skillset, and expertise to become a leader within the healthcare industry and provide specific, hands-on patient care. It is during their master of science in nursing that most nurse practitioners will choose a specialization, of which there are many.

At Regis College, for example, MSN students can pursue roughly 10 education tracks, split between two specializations: nurse practitioner and nurse leadership. The nurse practitioner track consists of pediatric, family, psychiatric-mental health, women’s health and adult-gerontology specializations, while the nurse leadership track encompasses clinical research, health administration, health informatics, health policy, and clinical nurse leader specialties.

As with BSN programs, there are many ways to earn your MSN. At Regis College, for example, you can learn both in-person and online, participate in an RN to MSN (non-nurse BS) program, or opt for the accelerated direct entry to MSN route.

3. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Another potential degree option for aspiring NPs is to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These degrees can be earned in place of an MSN or as the next step after earning your MSN. As such, they can either help you become a nurse practitioner or they can help you advance in your career after you are already a nurse practitioner.

A DNP is the highest level of education certification available to nurses, and its curriculum centers on various healthcare research methods, data analysis, and evidence-based nursing practice—making it ideal for NPs who want to hold leadership or senior-level positions, educate other nurses, perform advanced patient care, partake in clinical research, and create healthcare policies.

In all states, you will need to earn at least a master’s degree in nursing in order to become an NP. Some states, however, have begun to require nurse practitioners to hold a DNP in order to practice. Additionally, some employers may require that NPs hold a DNP even if the state only requires a master’s degree. With this in mind, it is important to understand the requirements in the state in which you wish to practice. Earning your DNP may offer some additional career flexibility, making it easier to transfer between states and employers.

If you have only obtained your BSN, you can enroll in a direct entry BSN-to-DNP program that helps you bridge the gap between your undergraduate and graduate careers.

MSN vs DNP

So, what’s the difference between earning your MSN and DNP, and which one is best for you?

In a nutshell, MSN students are trained for direct practice and patient care, while DNP students are trained in healthcare research and policy in addition to this patient care. As such, the DNP is often considered to be a terminal role for nurses, and the highest level of education that one might pursue. Many nurses who work in a leadership capacity will hold their DNP.

You can earn either or both degrees within three to five years, depending on the specific program that you enroll in, whether you study full time or part time, whether you complete an accelerated degree, etc.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

In order to become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to obtain at least a BSN and MSN, pass certification exams, perform clinical research, and apply for licensure within the states you wish you to practice. But, depending on your career goals and the specific states in which you wish to practice, you may need to earn your DNP to become a nurse practitioner or advance your career to take on leadership roles.

No matter your decision, being a nurse practitioner is a challenging and rewarding career. You’ll be charged with providing top-of-the-line healthcare for your patients while also shaping the future of the healthcare industry for the better—ultimately saving and making a huge difference in peoples’ lives.

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What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

PNPs usually work in both general and children’s hospitals or in healthcare facilities targeting younger populations, such as pediatric oncology clinics. Their day-to-day work also involves interacting with other healthcare providers, from doctors to laboratory technicians. PNPs often act as liaisons between their patients and these professionals.

A PNP’s responsibilities include:

  • Care. Children’s bodies are unique. Their physical presentation of symptoms can differ from that of adults, and because their bodies are smaller, they react differently to medications. PNPs must have pediatric-specific medical knowledge that enables them to recognize signs of disease and diagnose an illness accordingly, and then to administer the correct treatment. Their duties include conducting physical exams, recording health histories, ordering and interpreting laboratory and diagnostic tests, and establishing and implementing treatment plans. The degree of independence with which PNPs can prescribe medication depends on the extent of their training and certification, as well as the state in which they work.
  • Education. Another aspect that makes children unique patients is that they often can’t speak for themselves — and may not even be talking yet. As minors, they’re not legally entitled to make decisions about their own care; their parents or guardians have that right. A PNP must therefore be able to communicate with both children and their parents. Frequently this communication may have an educational focus as PNPs can teach parents about preventive care to keep their children healthy. If a child’s parents are balking at the thought of vaccination, for instance, a PNP might try to educate them on the importance of immunization.
  • Advocacy. PNPs who want to provide the best standard of care for their young patients may find themselves having to advocate for them. If an autistic child has yet to be diagnosed with the condition, for instance, a PNP might pick up on symptoms and recommend that the child be tested. The PNP might also advocate for the child to receive therapeutic measures to help manage everyday stressors. PNPs also have the duty to evaluate their patients for signs of abuse. For instance, if an infant appears malnourished, the infant may not be getting the sustenance needed at home.

Steps to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

The first step to become a PNP is to earn a bachelor’s or an associate degree. Next, an aspiring PNP must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN); then they can apply for a state license as a registered nurse (RN). Once licensed, RNs can enroll in a master’s in nursing program with a specialty in pediatrics, which involves coursework in anatomy, pharmacology, and physiology, along with hands-on clinical experience. Graduates can then seek certification as PNPs.

For those interested in an advanced nursing degree, Maryville University offers the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner concentration as  part of the online Master of Science in Nursing program. Students gain the knowledge they need to complete child-friendly developmental and health screenings, identify unhealthy lifestyle habits, and pinpoint hurdles to children’s mental and physical development. Students also master skills needed to interpret diagnostic tests, develop treatment plans, perform in-office primary care procedures (including writing prescriptions), and refer chronic or acute cases to specialists.

Some examples of required coursework include:

  • Health Promotion of the Pediatric Population. In this course, students learn how to promote health and prevent illness among children. They’re also taught how to incorporate individual cultural, ethnic, and spiritual preferences when working with pediatric patients and their families.
  • Pediatric Assessment and Diagnosis. In this course, students learn how to manage pediatric patients in primary care settings. Students find out how to perform a patient history, conduct a physical exam, use diagnostic tools, and interpret patient data to make diagnoses. Students also learn about common pediatric ailments.
  • Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics. In this course, students learn how drugs interact differently with young patients’ bodies and which medications can safely be prescribed concurrently. This is important to understand since nurses may have to prescribe treatment regimens including medication for minors.
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how long does it take to be a pediatric nurse practitioner

The pursuit of becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) holds enormous job potential, particularly with today’s high demand for advanced healthcare professionals. Merely 8.3 percent of nurse practitioners specialize in pediatrics, broadening the demand for the unique skill set of PNPs, who can benefit from reduced competition for the same job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that overall job opportunities for all nurse practitioners, including pediatric nurse practitioners, were expected to increase by 35 percent between 2014 and 2024.

PNPs can enjoy not only a rewarding, often fun work environment surrounded by children and families but also high earning potential. According to Discover Nursing, pediatric nurse practitioners in the United States typically earn between $63,000 and $85,000 a year.

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How Long It Takes to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

A specialization in pediatric nursing can not only offer nurses plenty of employment options, but it can also lead to uniquely fulfilling work that impacts the lives of children and their families. Multiple degree programs at Maryville University can lead to a career as a PNP, with commitments of study ranging from six to eight years, including the time allotted to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Following undergraduate study, graduates typically opt to pursue job opportunities as a registered nurse (RN) or other healthcare professional, or enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program to begin advanced coursework. If nurse practitioners would like to pursue a  leadership role, the next step is to enter a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which can be completed in 20 to 36 months, depending on the concentration.

4 Possible Pathways to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Maryville University’s online PNP programs offer the opportunity to choose the pathway that suits a student’s specific skill set and interests. While employment is not guaranteed after the completion of these programs, earning an advanced nursing degree can help nursing professionals expand their career options. Regardless of whether students choose to enter a PNP program immediately following undergraduate study or after entering the workforce, Maryville offers program options that suit professional goals at any stage. Additionally, the convenience and flexibility of Maryville’s 100% online, 24/7 program can meet students where they are in their educational journey.

The four PNP program pathways include:

Online Master of Science in Nursing — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (MSN PNP)

The MSN PNP pathway is the shortest course of study. Students can begin the curriculum in January, May, or August, and the 28-month master’s program requires 580 clinical hours, which students can complete over three semesters.

Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice — PNP Concentration (BSN to DNP PNP)

BSN to DNP students can earn their PNP in as few as 40 months and can begin coursework in January, May, or August. The program requires 580 clinical hours, which students can complete over three semesters.

Online Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate — Pediatric (Primary Care) Nurse Practitioner (MSN PNPC)

The post-master’s PNP certificate program requires 32 credits and 580 clinical hours for completion. Coursework can begin the semester following acceptance, with six entry points in spring, summer, and fall.

Online Doctor of Nursing Practice with a Nurse Practitioner Concentration — Pediatric (Primary Care) Nurse Practitioner (DNP-NP PNP)

The DNP-NP PNP program requires 65 credit hours and 580 clinical hours.

Choose Maryville Online for Your PNP

Choosing to specialize in pediatric nursing often provides many employment options, making the time it takes to become a pediatric nurse practitioner a good time investment. Learn more about the many paths to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner with Maryville University’s cost- and time-efficient online pediatric nurse practitioner programs.

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