RN To NP: How To Transition From a Registered Nurse To a Nurse Practitioner

If youre a registered nurse, youve likely considered advancing your career and one of the most popular options to do that is becoming a nurse practitioner. The increased autonomy, career opportunities, and higher salary are just some of the reasons RNs choose to pursue their NP. According to U.S. News and World Report, nurse practitioners are actually ranked the best healthcare job of 2022! But, how do you go about becoming a nurse practitioner as a registered nurse: through RN to NP programs. Keep reading to find out more about them and how to enroll in one.

The BIGGEST adjustment working as a new nurse practitioner | RN to NP pros and cons

Why some RNs transition to NPs

Becoming an NP is a way for RNs to advance their health care careers. Because NPs have more responsibilities than RNs, NP positions typically offer higher pay. RNs wanting to increase their pay can advance their skill set and education by becoming an NP. The role of an NP also takes on more independent work and provides medical professionals with the opportunity to specialize in various areas of medicine. Ultimately, switching from being an RN to an NP is a personal choice, but for those seeking to further their careers, it can be a worthwhile opportunity.

What is the difference between an RN and an NP?

Though both RNs and NPs are highly trained medical professionals who provide care for patients, their duties and work environments can be quite different. Typically, NPs are found working in private practices whereas RNs are staffed in hospitals or other surgical facilities. In regards to their everyday responsibilities, RNs consult with and assist physicians, while NPs tend to be more independent.

Additionally, RNs cannot prescribe medication, though NPs can. As such, the education requirements for each role are different, too. An RN needs an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at minimum, NPs are required to have a masters degree in nursing (MSN). Both professions have different required certifications, as well.

In regards to their salaries, NPs are generally paid more than RNs. Because of this, many RNs often advance their skillset and go on to become NPs.

Requirements for becoming an NP

Depending on where you are in your education, your path to becoming an NP will look slightly different. One option is to enroll in a school that offers a program designed for professionals wanting to become NPs who already have their associate or bachelors degree in nursing. Because youll need a masters or doctorate to become an NP, youll need at least a bachelors degree in nursing to enroll in a graduate program.

Therefore, if you hold an associate degree in nursing, your next step would be to get your bachelors degree. As mentioned previously, if you enroll in a school that offers a program specific for your career switching needs in regards to this profession, this is all built into the program at an accelerated level. Here are some examples of the programs youll encounter when switching from an RN to NP role:


Most of these programs allow students to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees simultaneously. Students might be asked what theyd like to specialize in, too. Typically, this program takes anywhere from two to four years.

2. BSN to MSN

This program is suited for students who have already earned their BSN. It typically takes around two years to complete. Students will also be given a choice as to what theyd like to specialize in as an NP.

3. BSN to DNP

This program is well-suited for those with a BSN who are wanting to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. During this program, students will be allowed to declare a specialty. This program takes approximately three years to complete.

4. Online programs

If you have other obligations, an online program to make a switch from an RN to NP role might be best suited for you. Completing an online program offers great flexibility; youll be able to complete your coursework as it adheres to your particular schedule. Though there will be clinical requirements, these can be arranged for your particular location.

Outside of typical education requirements, its recommended that NPs obtain individual credentialing for their particular specialization, too. In some instances, these credentials will be required. This option will become available once youve graduated with your MSN or DNP in your desired specialty. To receive your credentials, youll need to pass an exam. Regarding certifications, the American Nurses Credentialing Centers offer various NP concentration certifications.

How to become an NP

If youre ready to advance your health care career, follow these steps to become an NP:

1. Become an RN

To begin your career advancement to an NP position, you should be a licensed RN with a bachelors degree and a minimum GPA as required by your prospective program to start. After youve met these requirements, you can move on toward becoming an NP.

2. Get your graduate degree in nursing

To become an NP, youll need a masters degree at a minimum. Earning your masters degree can take anywhere from two to seven years. This timeline will vary depending on how much of a course load you take on each semester. When you select a program, make sure that it is accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

3. Get certified

Once youve completed your graduate studies, you should take the exam to get certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Many specialties will require you to be certified.

4. Get a job as an NP

Once youve met the NP requirements, you can begin your job search. As an NP, youll likely be working in a hospital, private practice, clinic or urgent care setting, although there are plenty of other options available, too. Begin your job search online or by contacting local job postings and networking with others in the health care sector.


How many years is it from RN-to-NP?

You can complete most BSN-to-NP programs in two years, studying full time. If you have an associate degree, the RN-to-NP path takes 3-4 years. Part-time programs take longer, but if you want to keep working as a full-time or part-time nurse while studying, most schools offer part-time RN-to-NP programs.

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.

Is being an NP better than RN?

NPs tend to earn more than RNs, mostly because their positions require a higher level of education, additional clinical hours and certifications, and often work in private settings.

How long does NP take from BSN?

Many aspiring nurse practitioners choose to earn their BSN and then work for a number of years as an RN before returning to school to become an NP. If this is the route that you take, you can expect your BSN to take between two to four years (depending on whether or not it is an accelerated program).

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