Becoming a Nurse Practitioner with a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree in 6 Steps

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nurse speaking with her patient

One of the most desirable jobs in healthcare is no doubt a nurse practitioner (NP), ranked the No. 1 job in healthcare by U.S. News and World Report, so it’s no wonder many are flocking to this career. You may be wondering, how can I become an NP? We’ll discuss the path to becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree below. Though the process of becoming an NP is a challenge, in the end, you’ll get to be a leader and change-maker for your patients.

Northeastern University helps you make your goal of becoming an NP a reality. Through the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, students can earn a BSN in as few as 16 months. Choosing an accelerated nursing program sets you up to make the transition to becoming a nurse practitioner in less time.

We’ll start at the beginning and walk you through the process of becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree in six steps. It all ends with a worthwhile NP career.

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a great career goal for nurses who aim to expand their reach and clinical independence. Nurse practitioners have an expanded scope of practice compared to nurses, and NPs can diagnose conditions, create treatment plans, and in some cases prescribe medications, and even practice independently in some states.

Nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses (APRNs) are in high demand. The rate of employment between 2020 and 2030 is expected to grow by 45% for NPs, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Furthermore, these nurses are among the highest paid in the profession, with an annual median pay of $120,680 (as of May 2021). And, according to Glassdoor, the average pay for nurse practitioners in the Boston area is $118,960 per year. In Charlotte, N.C., Glassdoor reports an average yearly pay of $120,140 for nurse practitioners.

1. Earn Your BSN in 16 Months

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 62 non-nursing college credits, 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, with locations near Boston, Massachusetts, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, 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. The NCLEX also requires students to choose the best answer, even when more than one answer is correct. Thankfully as a student in Northeastern’s ASBN program, you’ll gain valuable experience with NCLEX-style questions throughout the 16-month curriculum.

After graduation from the ABSN program, it’s best to sign up to take the exam one to two months after earning your BSN when all you learned is still fresh in your mind. Once you pass the NCLEX, you’ll be able to receive your nursing license and practice professionally as an RN.

Northeastern University ABSN student studying with text book

3. Gain Professional Experience

In the ABSN program at Northeastern, you will graduate as a generalist nurse, able to enter a variety of nursing specialties. In your clinical experiences as a student, you’ll get to try on different specialties through your diverse rotations. This will help you get a sense from early on of where you want to end up working as a nurse.

After graduation, gaining professional nursing experience is the next step in becoming a nurse practitioner with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Professional experience will help you be competitive when applying to NP programs, as it’s best to have one to two years of experience in your specific area of interest before you apply.

After all, nurse practitioners work in a wide variety of specialty areas, from pediatrics to gerontology, and the NP program you choose will depend on which specialty you choose. Prior to applying to a graduate program, spending time in nursing practice will give you experience and get a better sense of where you want to go with their career.

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. Northeastern offers 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 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 full practice category, meaning the scope of services they can provide without supervision is wider. However, some states, such as North Carolina, have NPs in the restricted practice category, so there are more restrictions of what NPs can do, and the 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.

So, if you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 62 non-nursing college credits, and if you’ve maintained a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, you may be eligible for the ABSN program at Northeastern.

A group of Northeastern Boston ABSN students

Fill out our online form to get in touch with our admissions team to see how Northeastern University can streamline your entry into a nurse practitioner career.

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