Becoming a Nurse Practitioner With a Non-nursing Bachelor’s Degree

6 Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner With a Non-nursing Bachelor’s Degree

While the path to becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree is possible, it’s probably not the journey you’d expect. After all, there are no academic shortcuts in earning this advanced practice title, only streamlined education options. Check out these six steps to a worthwhile NP career.

1. Earn your BSN in 16 months.

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, our full-time accelerated nursing program makes it possible to earn a quality BSN in as few as 16 months. And, just as long as you have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, we don’t care if you come from a science or liberal arts background. We leverage your existing education so you can jump right into nursing courses on your first day of the program.

Keep in mind that you must meet a series of prerequisite requirements before you can start our ABSN program. You must earn a “C” or better in eight prerequisite courses, four of which are science-based. Your previous field of study often dictates how many of the prerequisites you’ll need to take.

Once you begin our 16-month ABSN program, you can expect a rigorous blend of online coursework, hands-on skills and simulation labs, and in-person clinical rotations in diverse areas of nursing practice.

By the time you graduate from the program, you’ll be prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN® exam with confidence and enter the profession a practice-ready nurse.

2. Obtain your RN license.

To legally practice as a registered nurse, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. It’s a tough exam that uses complex multiple-choice questions to gauge how well you apply your critical thinking skills when making clinical judgments. It’s best to sign up to take the exam one to two months after earning your BSN because everything you learned is still fresh in your mind.

Northeastern University ABSN student studying with text book

3. Gain professional experience.

Prior to applying to a graduate program, many RNs spend time in nursing practice to gain experience and get a better sense of where they want to go with their career. After all, nurse practitioners work in a wide variety of specialty areas, from pediatrics to gerontology. Plus, some NP programs require you to have one to two years of experience in your specific area of interest before you can apply.

4. Earn your MSN in two or three years.

After spending time in the field, your next step to becoming a nurse practitioner is going back to school for your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. When it comes to our MSN program in Boston, you can choose full-time or part-time study, meaning you’ll earn your graduate degree in two or three years.

Like registered nurses, nurse practitioners can choose a general path of practice or one that specializes in a certain patient population or a specific area of care. We offer specialty tracks within our MSN program that allow you to apply for a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in the following areas:

  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
  • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner

If family practice is the path for you, we offer a Family Nurse Practitioner Hybrid Program that allows you to complete the majority of your classes online. Other aspects of the program involve live presentation sessions that require coming to campus twice a semester.

Northeastern University ABSN student using computer

No matter which of our NP program tracks you graduate from, you’ll be eligible to sit for all of the national certification exams in your area of practice.

5. Earn national NP certification.

Once you’ve earned an MSN degree that emphasizes the nurse practitioner role, you must pass a national certification exam to show you possess professional knowledge in a particular area of focus. Passing the exam is also necessary to qualify for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensure.

Here are some of the national certification agencies that offer NP certification exams that are recognized by every state board of nursing in the country:

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
  • National Certification Corporation

6. Obtain your APRN license.

To qualify for advanced practice registered nurse licensure in your state of employment, you must have:

  • An MSN from an accredited nurse practitioner graduate program.
  • National certification as a nurse practitioner in a recognized population focus.
  • A current and unencumbered RN license.

Every state, however, has different rules that determine the scope of practice for nurse practitioners. Depending on the state, nurse practitioners fall under one of three categories: full practice, reduced practice, and restricted practice.

Nurse practitioners in Massachusetts, for example, are in the restricted practice category, meaning the scope of services they can provide without supervision is narrower. Massachusetts state law requires career-long supervision, delegation or team management by another health provider in order for the NP to provide patient care.

Visit to learn more about the licensure and regulatory requirements for nurse practitioners in every state.

Your future as a nurse practitioner.

Becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree is a journey that takes approximately five years to complete, assuming you choose accelerated program options. The traditional path takes around seven to eight years to complete. But no matter the path, the road to becoming a nurse practitioner is worth it in the end.

Northeastern University ABSN students

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nurse practitioner employment to grow by 52 percent from 2019 to 2029. Furthermore, these nurses are among the highest paid in the profession, with an annual median pay of $111,680 (as of May 2020). And, according to Glassdoor, the average base pay for nurse practitioners in the Boston area is $109,643 per year.

So, if you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, contact our admissions team to see how Northeastern University can streamline your entry into a nurse practitioner career.

Get Started Today

  1. Educational Background:

    Bachelor's Degree

    Master's Degree

    Associate's Degree

    60+ College Credits

    35-59 College Credits

    0-34 College Credits


    RNs with ADN/BSN/MSN

By requesting information, I consent to be contacted by Northeastern University through my email, phone, and text using automated technology regarding enrollment.