Becoming a Nurse Practitioner with a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree in 8 Steps

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Becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree is possible when you enroll in an accelerated BSN program. Earning a BSN is the first step in the process, after which you must earn a nursing license, gain nursing experience and enroll in a nurse practitioner program.

NP with patient

Are you interested in becoming a nurse practitioner or another type of advanced practice nurse? These fields are great career opportunities for those with high ambitions and a desire to care for patients more independently.

If you’re looking into a career as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree is possible. At Felician University, we are well-versed in guiding students of our Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and On-Ground ABSN program along their career journeys.

What is a nurse practitioner (NP)? NPs are a type of APRN who can serve as primary care providers. Their scope of practice includes diagnosing and treating patients, prescribing medication, performing physical exams and enacting disease prevention.

Advanced practice nursing careers are high-paying, sought-after jobs, and pursuing one of these careers is a wise decision. The median salaries in the U.S. for APRNs as of May 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), are as follows:

  • Nurse practitioner (CNP): $121,610
  • Nurse anesthetist (CRNA): $203,090
  • Nurse midwife (CNM): $120,880

We’ll walk you through how to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree. These eight steps will help you transition from a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to an advanced practice nursing role.

1. Earn Your BSN

If you want to become an NP or other advanced practice RN, the first step involves earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). So, how long does it take to become an NP? It can take six to eight years to become an NP; however, earning a BSN through an accelerated BSN program can speed up the process.

student has laptop in hand smiling at camera

If you have at least 60 non-nursing college credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree at an accredited school, then you are eligible to apply for an accelerated nursing program.

Accelerated BSN Programs

While accelerated BSN programs are not accelerated nurse practitioner programs for non-nurses, enrolling in an accelerated BSN program can expedite becoming an NP with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. These programs are for career changers and college transfer students who want to pivot their careers to nursing.

They provide the same quality and comprehensive education as a traditional four-year BSN program. Because general education and basic science courses are either covered by your previous college education or through prerequisites, the program focuses on nursing, allowing you to earn your BSN much faster than through a traditional program.

The accelerated BSN program at Felician has three start dates each year — January, May, and August — and we don’t put students on a waitlist, so you can optimize your time by beginning nursing school earlier.

Felician’s 16-month hybrid ABSN program consists of four semesters of education, and the curriculum is a mixed online and in-person model. Students complete interactive online courses, on-site simulation labs and diverse clinical experiences.

By choosing an accelerated BSN program, you can enroll in an NP program much faster than through the traditional route.

nurse with manikin

Learn more about what an accelerated BSN program is so you can take the first steps toward earning a BSN.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Once you graduate from nursing school and earn your BSN, you’re almost ready for your first nursing job. However, there are a couple of checkpoints before you can start working. The first of these is studying for and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The NCLEX-RN is the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, a nationally recognized standard for nursing practice.

Students generally begin studying for the NCLEX in the fourth semester of their ABSN program, as it takes time to prepare adequately. It is a comprehensive exam of your nursing education and has a unique style of asking for the ‘best’ answer, even when there may be more than one ‘correct’ answer.

After graduation from nursing school, plan to set aside a month or two for test preparation. Then, once you pass the NCLEX, you’ll be ready to get your nursing license and begin working.

3. Get Your State RN License

After you’ve passed the NCLEX, you’ll need approval from your state’s board of nursing. Each state has slightly different nurse requirements, so check your state’s Department of Health website for more information.

Felician nursing student using blood pressure cuff on sim manikin

Once you get approved by your state and receive your nursing license, you can start working as a professional nurse.

4. Gain Experience Working as a Nurse

Though you aspire to earn a higher-level nursing degree, it’s important to stop and work as a registered nurse for a while. Gaining valuable experience in the hospital or clinic ensures you are a competent nurse. Also, nursing schools require professional nursing experience for their master’s and doctorate applicants.

Expect to spend a year or two gaining real-world experience to help you decide what area of practice you ultimately want to pursue. Are you fascinated by primary care, or do you prefer urgent care? Do you enjoy delivering babies or being involved in surgeries? Depending on your interests, you can pursue an APRN career that suits you best.

Prepare for working as a nurse by reviewing these top soft skills in nursing.

Felician nursing student using a stethoscope

Choose What Type of APRN You Want to Become

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet in a nursing career and are ready to pursue your goal of becoming an APRN, you’ll want to consider what type of practitioner you want to be. Nurses have several options for advanced degree programs, including:

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)

These careers offer diverse but equally rewarding opportunities. Depending on which you decide, you’ll want to enter a master’s or doctorate-level program that prepares nurses for certification in that field.

5. Apply for an MSN or DNP Program

nursing student putting stethoscope in ears

Now that you know what kind of practitioner you aim to become, you’ll want to choose a suitable program for earning your advanced degree. You can find master’s or doctorate-level programs for these specialties, but knowing which degree to get can be challenging.

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP): For CNPs, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) plans to transition master’s programs to doctorate programs. However, this process has been slow, and schools have retained their MSN programs. In other words, earning an MSN is still a viable, popular option for CNPs.
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): As of January 1, 2022, the Council on Accreditations for CRNAs requires CRNA programs to be at the doctoral level, not the master’s level. With the push for CRNAs to have a doctorate, you should plan on getting a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) if you want to be a CRNA.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): A DNP is an option for midwifery, but the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) has clarified that a doctorate is not required. A master’s degree is the standard degree requirement for midwifery.

Once you choose your master’s or doctorate program for your field, the next step is applying, enrolling and then working hard to earn your degree. Once you get through your advanced program and graduate, the finish line is close.

6. Pass Your CNP/CRNA/CNM Certification Exam

After earning your graduate degree, you must take a national certification exam for your practice area. This exam will depend on whether you become a CNP, CRNA or CNM. For CNPs, nurses choose a population specialty, so the board exams cover general knowledge and population-specific information.

7. Become Licensed as an APRN

The hard work is done, and now you must get licensed in your state. This process is similar to your initial state licensing when you earned your BSN. Once again, consult the specific guidelines for your state. You can find information from your state’s board of nursing through your state’s Department of Health.

8. Start Your Rewarding Career

You made it! Finally, after all the commitment and time, you can get hired as an APRN and put all your education to good use. Now, your rewarding and lucrative career begins, and all you invested in yourself is worth it. Go out and be the best advanced practice nurse possible.

Begin Your Nursing Career Today!

Are you ready to take the first step in becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree? Earning your BSN is the best way to start your new career. Felician University offers a 16-month ABSN program in Parsippany, New Jersey, and an 18-month on-ground ABSN program in Rutherford, New Jersey. Our accelerated nursing programs can help you reach your career goals sooner.

At Felician, we are committed to preparing the nurses of tomorrow. You will receive a high-quality nursing education and the support of an entire community of top educators. We are proud of our students and their accomplishments after earning their BSN.

Contact us if you’d like to talk with an admissions counselor about how you can get started today.