Find a School >
Healthcare Colleges Home > Healthcare Programs > Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse Practitioner Programs

What Are Nurse Practitioners?

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with graduate degrees in advanced practice nursing. Depending on the state they work in, they may be able to provide a wide range of health care services without the direct supervision of a physician, including performing physical exams, ordering lab tests and procedures, diagnosing and treating diseases, writing prescriptions, educating patients about healthcare and performing certain procedures. For more information, see our page on nurse practitioners careers.

Nurse Practitioner Program Information

Many universities offer either traditional on-campus programs for nurse practitioners or hybrid programs, which combine online instruction and in-person clinical training. Even programs that deliver instruction primarily online typically require clinical rotations that must be completed at the school or an approved offsite location. The clinical component of a nurse practitioner program gives students the opportunity to gain experience working directly with patients and exercising the skills they have acquired in the classroom.

Most nurse practitioner programs have a specific focus, such as family practice, pediatrics or primary care, but many offer a core curriculum that provides a similar overview of advanced nursing practice and its applications various healthcare settings. The remaining component of the curriculum provides more specialized instruction tailored to the program's focus.

While researching nurse practitioner schools and programs, students should make sure they are approved by the board of nursing in the state in which they want to practice, as this is a vital part of gaining licensure.

Nurse Practitioner Program Types

Nurse practitioner programs are available at the graduate level and typically require students to already have their RN license, though there are bridge programs designed for individuals without no background in nursing. Degree options include:

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): MSN degrees represent the baseline entry into nurse practitioner careers. In addition to the standard MSN programs, there are also Registered Nurse to MSN (RN-MSN) and Bachelor of Science to MSN (BS-MSN) bridge programs for students without a bachelor's in nursing. Full-time students in MSN programs can generally complete there degree in as little as two years, while bridge programs tend to take longer.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): A DNP degree is a terminal nursing degree, and may take as little as one or two years for those with a master's. Students are expected to have work experience as a registered nurse before entering a DNP program. Unlike a Ph.D., which is more research-focused, a DNP program focuses on training students for a hands-on care, only armed with more advanced knowledge and skills than those with master's degrees.

Both MSN and DNP degree programs can help prepare students for state licensure and professional certification. Professional certification is usually given for a specific field and can be granted by a number of organizations, such as the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Nurses Association. State licensing requirements and the scope of practice for nurse practitioners vary by state, so students should investigate their state's requirements and prepare accordingly.

Nurse Practitioner Course Descriptions

Nurse practitioners generally specialize in a particular area, so the course content of nurse practitioner programs can vary greatly according to the student's chosen focus. However, certain general nurse practitioner courses may appear as part of the core curriculum, including:

  • Advanced Health Assessment: This course helps prepare students for taking patients' histories, performing physical and psychosocial assessments, and interpreting and documenting findings.
  • Foundations of Health Systems and Policy: This course helps student understand the current healthcare system, as well as the process of making health policy.
  • Advanced Concepts of Pharmacology: This course helps students understand the pharmacologic concepts, including receptor theory, dose-response relationships, and mechanisms of action of certain classes of drugs. The course helps prepare students adapt to new pharmaceuticals that may emerge in the marketplace.
  • Health Care Ethics: This course gives students the opportunity to examine the ethical issues involved in clinical medicine, including those related to euthanasia, abortion, reproductive issues, treatment of infants and children and genetics.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

There are many specialty tracks within nurse administrator programs, including:

  • Family Practice
  • Neonatal
  • Women's Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Psychiatry
  • Orthopedic

Related Career Options

Those interested in becoming a nurse practitioner may also be interested in the following careers:

  • Registered Nurse: Work alongside doctors to provide patient care, perform diagnostic tests, educate patients about healthcare issues and teach them to manage illnesses.
  • Physician Assistant: Practice medicine under supervision of physicians or surgeons, including performing examinations, making diagnoses and offering treatment.
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer: Assess and diagnose patients using ultrasound technology.

These and other career fields have their own education, training and licensing requirements.

Links to Sources and Associations

The following websites can provide more information about nurse practitioners:

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing: http://acenursing.org/

American Association of Colleges of Nursing http://www.aacn.nche.edu/

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, http://www.aanp.org

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, http://www.napnap.org

National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, http://www.npwh.org

Registered Nurses, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Registered-nurses.htm

The National Institute of Health/ National Library of Medicine Nurse Practitioner Information Page, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001934.htm

Explore these online and campus healthcare programs

Refine School Matches
Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
Clear All

See More




Results:  7
Matching School Ads
Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Ranked among the Best Grad Schools for Physician Assistants in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Dedicated to delivering quality education and personalized attention to students since 1899.
  • Provides a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services.
  • Offers counseling services and a 24/7 crisis hotline to students at no extra charge.
  • Gives students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Dual Degree: MSN-MBA (MSN-MBA) - Online
  • For the 12th consecutive year, Cal U was named one for the best schools in the Northeast by The Princeton Review 
  • Recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for: Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s 2017, Best Online Programs, Grad Education 2017 and Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s for Veterans 2017
  • Quality Online courses at Cal U have the same objectives, content and learning outcomes as campus-based programs and are taught by the same expert professors.
  • Offers private school amenities at a public school cost. Student-to-teacher ratio of 20:1
  • CAL U online programs complete an annual assessment of student learning to ensure outcomes are focused on your success in career entry, advancement or enhancement!
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Vocational Nursing
Good for Working Adults
  • Offers medical and cosmetic programs, including dental assisting, massage therapy, cosmetology, esthetics, and more.
  • Features a public salon and spa where students may get real-world experience.
  • Offers scholarship opportunities for students wo qualify.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 separate Vacaville campuses, one is for medical careers and the other is the beauty academy.
Show more [+]
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Doctor of Education - Nursing Education
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Licensed Vocational Nurse
Good for Working Adults
  • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
  • Approved to accept international students who wish to study in the United States.
  • Programs include Medical Office Specialist, Medical Assistant, Dental Lab Technician, and Healthcare Administration.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
Show more [+]
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
Master of Science in Nursing - Care Coordination
  • Helps students advance their education with a graduate degree, including a Doctor of Education, Executive MBA, and more.
  • Home of the Harold D. Buckingham Graduate School, which offers flexible study options for master’s programs in business, management, and nursing.
  • Students may choose online or on-campus programs to better accommodate their work or personal schedules.
  • Programs are designed to help students take what they learn in class and apply it at work the next day.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses