How Long Does it Take To Become a Certified Nurse Practitioner?

cnpCertified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) is one of four advanced practice nursing designations that requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. It also requires clinical experience as an RN. In some form, the nurse seeking NP licensure also will need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, but there are several types of programs that combine portions of the BSN and MSN to shorten the length of time necessary to meet MSN entrance requirements and complete the MSN program. How long it takes to become a CNP depends on where the prospective MSN student begins.

Diploma RNs

RNs that have not completed BSN programs will need to finish a bachelor’s degree. Some RNs complete only a diploma program, some complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and some choose the BSN option at the beginning. A diploma program typically is less than two years. Most ADN programs require two years to complete. RNs who have chosen these non-BSN routes will need to gain the BSN degree, but that does not necessarily mean that they have to spend two to four years to complete a BSN.

Bridge Programs

There are many programs that strive to shorten the length of time that non-BSN RNs have to devote to meeting MSN admission requirements. Many schools offer some variation of an RN-to-MSN program. The traditional route takes a BSN-prepared RN to MSN. The MSN program typically lasts at least two years.

Less traditional approaches make provision for taking a diploma or ADN nurse through MSN. These programs make the nontechnical BSN content available to diploma and ADN RNs who possess all of the technical knowledge necessary to attain RN licensure. These same programs are available to diploma and ADN RNs who hold bachelor degrees in disciplines other than nursing. These bridge programs do not cut corners in content. Rather, students often study bachelor’s and master’s level course concurrently. At the end of the bridge program, the diploma or ADN RN who began the program finishes it with all of the nursing theory and nursing management study contained in BSN and MSN programs. The primary difference is that the diploma or ADN RN gains BSN and MSN degrees at the same time, rather than having to complete a full BSN program before beginning the MSN program.

So How Much Time?

The nursing student who chooses BSN study right out of high school and then continues in an MSN program will spend a minimum of six years in school. That time does not include the time the student must spend in active RN practice to gain NP licensure. The clinical practice requirement varies by state, but all states require active clinical practice at the RN licensure level.

RNs who chose diploma or ADN programs early on and then decide they want to become NPs will need to complete a BSN in some form. That may or may not require a full four year course of study. The RN who prefers to pursue the traditional route of completing BSN and MSN degrees consecutively certainly can choose that route. Other RNs who seek to optimize the time required to achieve NP licensure have many options available.