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

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Nurse in green scrubs and lab coat 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 who have 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.

Advanced practice nursing careers are high-paying, sought-after jobs, and pursuing one of these careers is a wise decision. The median salary in the U.S. for APRNs as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), are as follows:

  • Nurse practitioner (CNP): $111,680
  • Nurse anesthetist (CRNA): $183,580
  • Nurse midwife (CNM): $111,130

We’ll walk you through exactly 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’re interested in becoming a nurse practitioner or other advanced practice RN, the first step involves earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). If you have taken at least 60 non-nursing college credits at an accredited school or you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, then you are eligible to apply for an accelerated nursing program.

An ABSN program, such as Felician University’s 16-month hybrid ABSN program, allows students to earn their BSN faster than they would at a traditional four-year nursing school.

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, which means 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.

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 to get through 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, and it’s 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 adequately prepare. It is a comprehensive exam over 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 to get approved by your state’s board of nursing. Each state has slightly different requirements for their nurses, so check your state’s department of health website for more information.

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 along the way 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.

Nursing students in lab coats

Expect to spend a year or two gaining real-world experience, which will 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’ll be able to pursue an APRN career that suits you best.

Choose What Type of APRN You Want to Become

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet in a nursing career, and you’re ready to pursue your goal of becoming an APRN, you’ll want to think about 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 on, you’ll want to enter a master’s or doctorate level program that prepares nurses for certification in that particular field.

5. Apply for an MSN or DNP Program

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, and it’s hard to know which degree to get.

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP): For CNPs, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is planning 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 currently still a viable, popular option for CNPs.
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): As of January 1, 2022, the Council on Accreditations for CRNAs is requiring CRNA programs to be at the doctoral level, not the master’s level. With the push for CRNAs to have a doctorate degree, 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 made it clear 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 the field you’re pursuing, 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’ll need to take a national certification exam for your area of practice. This exam will depend on whether you become an NP, CRNA, or CNM. For CNPs, nurses choose a population specialty, so the board exams cover general knowledge as well as population-specific information.

7. Become Licensed as an APRN

The hard work is done, and now all you must do is get licensed in your state. This licensing 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 the department of health for your state.

Nurse assisting patient

8. Start Your Rewarding Career

You made it! Finally, after all the commitment and time, you can finally 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 get started on your new career. At Felician University, we offer both 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 what they go on to accomplish after earning their BSN.

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