How To Become a Nurse Practitioner With a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree

If you’re wondering how to become a nurse practitioner, the process can be broken up into simple steps. It all starts with earning your MSN degree. Then once you enter the nursing field, you will be able to gather the experience and certifications you need to become a nurse practitioner.

With many experienced nurses deciding later in their careers that they want to become nurse practitioners, it makes sense for prospective nursing students to think about pursuing an MSN from the start of their nursing education. You may ask, “What are the benefits of earning a master’s degree in nursing?” You might also be curious about how to become a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

Marquette University’s Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program makes it possible to transform your non-nursing bachelor’s degree into an MSN. The Direct Entry MSN is an invaluable route to earn your degree and enter a new career as a nursing leader in as few as 19-21 months.

First we’ll discuss why it makes sense to become a nurse practitioner, and then we’ll explain the process of how to become a nurse practitioner in five steps.


What does a nurse practitioner do?

Like other types of nurses, nurse practitioners provide fundamental patient care. However, nurse practitioners also have the abilities and license to offer more advanced care measures to their patients. A nurse practitioners responsibilities vary depending on their medical specialization, but they typically include:

What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a medical professional licensed as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Like registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse practitioners offer basic patient care measures. In addition, nurse practitioners also examine, diagnose and treat patients. Depending on their location, nurse practitioners may need supervision or approval from physicians for these actions, or they may provide these medical services independently.

Most nurse practitioners specialize in a specific area of healthcare, such as:

Nurse practitioner skills

Nurse practitioners possess both hard skills and soft skills, meaning that they have specific healthcare abilities as well as helpful behavioral traits. Here are some skills that can help nurse practitioners succeed:


Nurse practitioners need to adapt quickly to a variety of situations. New medical circumstances and patient needs can transform a nurses work environment and daily schedule. Being flexible helps nurses to provide their patients with necessary care, even during challenging or unexpected situations.


A nurse practitioner sees many patients, each with their own medical conditions, needs and concerns. Nurses who can empathize with each patients unique health issues or anxieties can form more meaningful connections with their patients. A nurse practitioner can show empathy to patients by actively listening to their worries, expressing sympathy for their health conditions and providing personalized resources or guidance.

Technology skills

As more medical facilities increasingly use electronic rather than paper records, nurse practitioners need to have a basic understanding of healthcare technology. Nurse practitioners should be capable of viewing, updating and maintaining electronic health records and databases. Depending on their specialty, nurse practitioners may use other medical technology too, such as digital blood pressure monitors or telehealth services.

Organizational abilities

Nurse practitioners typically balance multiple tasks and care for many patients within a day. A nurse practitioner needs to be organized to complete their responsibilities on time and effectively. Being organized can help nurse practitioners figure out which tasks to prioritize first, maintain accurate health records and effectively manage their time.


Nurse practitioners often take part in team-based care, meaning that they coordinate their healthcare services with a patients other medical professionals. Nurse practitioners need to collaborate with these other healthcare providers to ensure that their services and treatments work together towards a common medical goal.

Depending on their location, nurse practitioners may also need supervision or authorization from doctors to perform certain tasks, such as prescribing medications or developing treatment plans. In these locations, the nurse practitioner should be able to effectively communicate their patient evaluations and treatment plans to their supervising doctor.


Nurse practitioners have more autonomy than some other nurses in assessing, diagnosing and treating patients. A nurse practitioner with strong leadership abilities may have an easier time taking initiative and making well-reasoned healthcare decisions.

Critical thinking abilities

Nurse practitioners often need to react quickly to different circumstances, solve challenges and make decisions. Having critical thinking skills can help nurse practitioners rapidly assess a situation, develop a plan and implement the necessary course of action.

Nurse practitioner salary and job outlook

Some medical professionals do become nurse practitioners with a non-nursing bachelors degree. However, you need to first fulfill other education, experience and licensure requirements. Here are five steps to help you become a nurse practitioner with a bachelors degree that is not in nursing:

1. Receive a masters in nursing

Apply for and enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Application requirements vary based on the particular school and program, but most nursing school applications require a personal statement about why you want to receive an MSN, transcripts from previous schools and letters of recommendation.

Aspiring nurse practitioners can choose between several types of MSN programs, such as bridge, accelerated and online programs. The most common choice for students with bachelors degrees in other fields is the direct entry program. Direct entry programs are four-year programs that specialize in helping students with non-nursing bachelors degrees earn their MSN. Direct entry programs help you fulfill prerequisites you may not have taken while receiving your bachelors degree, such as advanced science courses, typically during the first two years. The program usually offers classes specific to nursing over the following two years.

2. Get a nursing license

After you receive an MSN, youre eligible to receive either a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) license. RNs and LPNs both provide fundamental care measures to their patients. However, an RN is a more advanced license that allows nurses to perform additional duties, such as administering medications and treatment plans determined by a physician. Most aspiring nurse practitioners with non-nursing bachelors degrees decide to get licensed as an RN. Being an RN allows for greater nursing autonomy that can help you prepare for becoming a nurse practitioner.

To become an RN, you first need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Other requirements vary depending on the state you hope to practice nursing in but may include a background check, transcripts from your MSN program or proof of citizenship.

3. Work as a nurse

Gain nursing experience by working at a hospital, clinic or other medical facility. Most nurse practitioner certificate programs require applicants to have at least one year of experience in nursing. Obtaining professional nursing experience can also help you determine what field of medicine you want to work in later as a nurse practitioner.

4. Get a nurse practitioner certificate

Receive a nurse practitioner certificate in your chosen medical field. Some aspiring nurse practitioners choose to enroll in a certificate program that requires additional higher education courses. Taking a certificate course may be the best option if your chosen field of medicine is more specialized, such as for newborn or older adult care. You may also decide instead to take a national nurse practitioner examination offered by a reputable medical organization.

5. Acquire an advanced nursing license

Receive an advanced license in nursing. License names and requirements vary depending on the state you hope to work in. Some states ask you to apply for a new license specifically in advanced practice registered nursing. In other states, you can apply for an upgrade to your existing nursing license. Certain states also require additional authorization measures for you to write prescriptions for patients.

Frequently asked questions about nurse practitioners

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about nurse practitioners:

Is there a difference between a nurse practitioner and an advanced practice registered nurse?

Although some people use the terms nurse practitioner and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) interchangeably, there are differences between the two professions. A nurse practitioner is a type of APRN, and all nurse practitioners must have an APRN license. However, other medical professionals also receive APRN licenses, including:

Where do nurse practitioners work?

Depending on their interests and medical specialization, nurse practitioners can work in a variety of environments, such as:

Why should you become a nurse practitioner?

There are many benefits to being a nurse practitioner, including:

What are nursing clinicals?

Nursing clinicals are a part of nursing school at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Nursing clinicals provide students with the opportunity to practice their nursing skills while being supervised and directed by a registered nurse or clinical instructor. Nursing clinicals vary depending on an aspiring nurse practitioners experience level and chosen medical specialty, but typically include basic patient care measures, medical evaluations and diagnostic procedures.


What can a nurse practitioner do that a RN Cannot?

Roles and Responsibilities

Although both registered nurses and nurse practitioners focus on patient observation and care, the largest difference between the two roles is that NPs are permitted to prescribe treatments, order tests, and diagnose patients—duties normally performed by physicians—whereas RNs are not.

What is the easiest NP to be?

  1. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner. …
  2. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. …
  3. Family Nurse Practitioner. …
  4. Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (OHNP) …
  5. Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner.

Is Pa better than NP?

Is it better to see a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner? Both NPs and PAs can provide safe and quality care. NPs follow more of a nursing model with a focus on preventive health and education, while PAs are trained more in a medical model.

Is NP harder than RN?

Courses and content are more challenging. The level of knowledge you’re required to have as a Nurse Practitioner is a huge step up from a RN. You’ll take a lot of the same courses as you did with your BSN, but will go into each topic with a lot more depth because you’ll be diagnosing and treating health problems soon.

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