If you want to pursue a path to become a nurse practitioner, there are different routes you can take. One part of the path is pursuing a post-master NP certificate, but there are others. Below, we talk in more detail about the things to know about nurse practitioner certification if it’s something you’re considering. 

1. The Nurse Practitioner’s Path

The NP community is diverse in the U.S., and these professionals work in a range of healthcare settings, including private practices, large healthcare systems, ICUs, and more. 

Becoming an NP begins first with being a registered nurse. You have to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or your BSN. 

You have to complete a graduate master’s or doctoral nursing program, and then you have to pass the NP board certification exam. 

That means the baseline essentially to become an NP or to be accepted into a program is that you’re actively licensed as a registered nurse and hold a BSN. 

Then, NPs can be classified as advanced practice registered nurses. The graduate nurse practitioner education is built on the knowledge that you learned in your undergraduate studies. 

As you go through the graduate program, you get advanced knowledge so that you’re able to successfully diagnose, manage, and then prescribe medications and a variety of other treatments for your patients. 

2. Choosing A Patient Focus

When you’re a nurse practitioner student, you choose your patient population at the start of your program. That allows you to match your skills and knowledge to the needs of the particular patients you’ll be working with. 

There are core courses that will be part of your program, no matter your patient focus, such as coursework in pharmacology and pathology. 

Patient focuses can include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP or AGPCNP
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP or AGPCNP
  • Family NP or FNP
  • Neonatal NP or NNP
  • Pediatric NP or PNP
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP or PMHNP
  • Women’s Health NP or WHNP

3. Certification

After you complete your NP education, you have to get national certification from the appropriate certifying body that’s accredited. 

The NP certifying boards include:

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center Certification Program
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation
  • The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
  • National Certification Corporation

The NP board certification is the last step as you move from being a registered nurse to an NP. You can only be a nurse practitioner when you have an NP credential that’s valid. 

The board that administers your exam is going to depend on your specialty. Only one board typically will certify an NP specialty, but sometimes, you can get a certification from more than one. 

Once you pass the board exam, you apply for licensing in your state. As an NP, you have to periodically renew your certification and your state license, which means you’ll have to meet certain requirements, such as continuing education. The specific requirements are determined by the board you’re certified by and the state regulatory body.

4. Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certification

There’s also education that can go beyond the master’s level if you’re an NP. If you’re a master’s-prepared nurse, then you can focus even more on an area of specialization through a post-master’s nurse practitioner certification program. 

You can often do this coursework online if it’s something you’re interested in. 

Examples of NP certificates for post-master’s work include:

  • Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate—Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate—Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate—Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate—Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner’s Certificate—Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

If you get a post master’s credential, it can help you add to your specialization with certification in a different area, and this might help you earn a higher salary and also advance your career. You can become eligible to apply for national board certification in your area of specialty. 

5. Career Outlook

According to U.S. News & World Report, nurse practitioners are second on the list of the best jobs in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for NPs will stay strong and career growth will continue to rise as the country has a growing population of aging patients, and there’s also an increasing focus on preventative care. 

According to BLS projections, job openings for NPs are expected to go up 52% between 2020 and 2030, and some of these positions are among the highest-paying jobs in nursing. The Association of American Medical Colleges says the need for NPs will keep going up steadily, and there’s expected to be a large shortage of primary and also specialty care physicians driving that.