Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Nurse practitioners provide critical medical care every day for a variety of patients, including premature babies and elderly patients. They treat chronic and acute conditions, examining patients to diagnose illnesses and create treatment plans. Nurse practitioners provide similar medical care to a physician, acting as a primary care provider and prescribing medications. In several states, nurse practitioners can operate their own private practice without physician supervision.

Registered nurses considering career advancement may benefit from becoming a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioner programs provide advanced coursework in health assessment, evidence-based practices, and acute care. Many nurses prefer the flexibility of an online nurse practitioner program, which allows them to complete clinical experience requirements locally. Online programs also let current RNs earn a degree while working.

Graduates from FNP online programs earn an average salary of over $93,000 a year, according to PayScale .

Nurse practitioners play an integral role in healthcare as specialists in patient care. Students can pursue a variety of specialities, including certification as a family nurse practitioner. Specialized online FNP programs provide focused training in primary care for patients from birth through palliative care. Graduates from FNP online programs earn an average salary of over $93,000 a year, according to PayScale .

NPs help deliver babies, care for newborns, act as primary care providers for families, and specialize in areas such as mental health, acute care, and gerontology. RNs can significantly increase their salary by becoming nurse practitioners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NPs earn an average salary of over $100,000 a year.

Is an Online Nurse Practitioner Master's Right for Me?

Nurse practitioners provide primary care for patients of all ages in a variety of clinical settings, including private practice, hospitals, and NICUs. Current RNs who want greater independence and more responsibility in designing care plans can benefit from pursuing a degree as a nurse practitioner. Successful nurse practitioners work well in self-directed situations, acting as patient-focused healthcare professionals.

As working RNs know, nurses must be observant, possess strong communication skills, and manage complex medical tasks. The same is true of nurse practitioners, who carry even greater responsibility for patient outcomes. Experienced RNs seeking career advancement gain valuable educational experience from nurse practitioner online programs.

How Do Online Nurse Practitioner Classes Work?

Many prospective students wonder how nurse practitioner online programs differ from their on-campus counterparts. The classes, clinical experience, and faculty oversight is largely identical, but online NP programs, including FNP online programs, have several advantages over on-campus programs. For many busy professionals and working RNs, online family nurse practitioner programs provide the best pathway for career advancement.

Many nurse practitioner students continue working as RNs while earning a degree. Online programs give students the flexibility to fit their classes around professional obligations. Many online family nurse practitioner programs also let students take classes at their own pace, providing accessibility to course materials at any time, from any location.

Just like in-person degrees, online nurse practitioner programs include clinical requirements. For some programs, the clinical guidelines may require as many as 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. Online students can often arrange to complete their clinical hours within their community. In many cases, RNs can meet the clinical requirements at their current place of employment. Some students complete the hours at a single site, while others arrange clinical experiences at multiple locations.

Admission Requirements for an Online Nurse Practitioner Program

To earn a graduate nurse practitioner degree, applicants must first meet admission requirements. The first requirement is an active RN license, which often must be issued by the state where the nurse plans to complete his or her clinical hours.

Nearly all programs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Some nurse practitioner programs admit RNs who do not hold a bachelor’s degree or have a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field. Online NP programs also expect a strong academic background from prospective students. Many set a minimum 3.0 GPA for unrestricted admissions.

What to Expect From Online Nurse Practitioner Program

Nurse practitioner programs offer different concentrations, curricula, and degree-completion times, so it’s important to research programs that meet your criteria. Learning more about the requirements of online FNP programs and the salary potential for pediatric nurse practitioners helps students make informed choices about their schooling.

Nurse Practitioner Concentrations

Students planning to become an NP can choose from many concentrations, which lead to different careers. Concentrations focus on a specific career path. The table below shows the average annual salary for a variety of NP specializations.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family NPs work with patients of all ages, from prenatal care through end of life care. As primary care providers, FNPs diagnose acute and chronic conditions, create treatment plans, and provide wellness care for multiple stages of life. Online family nurse practitioner programs prepare graduates for a career as a FNP.

Mental Health Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

NPs specializing in psychiatric mental health work with patients and families to determine their mental health needs. Mental health NPs may also work with groups and communities. Nurse practitioners in this specialty develop and implement care plans.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal nurse practitioners care for premature newborns and newborns facing medical issues. They often work in neonatal intensive care units as well as emergency rooms and speciality clinics. Neonatal NPs act as primary caregivers for premature or ill newborns.

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology nurse practitioners treat adult patients, including the elderly. Many work in private practice, treating acute and chronic ailments and providing wellness plans and maintenance care. Adult gerontology NPs may specialize in palliative care, diabetes, cancer, or other fields.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Acute care NPs focus on hospital-based care. They work with patients of all ages, from pediatric to elderly care, and their primary role is assessing and treating patients who present acute health needs. Acute care NPs may also treat chronic conditions.

Average Salary by Nurse Practitioner Specialization


Curriculum for an Online Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree

Nurse practitioner programs each set their own curriculum based on the program’s emphasis and strengths. However, many incorporate classes in advanced health assessment, primary care for different groups, and classes on evidence-based practices. Many online courses require clinical hours, which online students can arrange locally. The sample curriculum below includes some of the most common courses in online NP programs.

Advanced health assessment

This course prepares students to conduct comprehensive health assessments for patients of all ages. Learners use simulations and human models as well as clinical laboratory experience to build their assessment abilities.

Primary care of adults

Classes on primary care integrate assessment and theory into providing care for adults, including those with chronic and acute conditions. Students build skills in health promotion, health maintenance, and management of common conditions. Many courses incorporate clinical hours as part of the class requirements.

Epidemiology for nurse practitioners

Students learn about epidemiology and the distribution of diseases in populations, including its application to nursing practice. Coursework may address monitoring population health, evaluating delivery of care, and promoting optimal healthcare outcomes. Classes also incorporate research methods, trends, and applying epidemiological approaches.

Nursing theory for advanced practice

Master’s students explore theories about nursing, including how they apply to nursing education, administration, and practice. The class may incorporate theories that apply to health disparities as well as the context of the research process.

Evidence-based methods and practices

Nurses build clinical expertise through classes that consist of evidence-based methods and practices. The class incorporates critical appraisal and research skills, as well as models that lead to optimal patient outcomes. Coursework may also emphasize the needs of vulnerable populations.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree?

Nurse practitioner programs usually take two to four years to complete, depending on the program and the degree. The structure of the program and its requirements play a central role in determining the degree length. Online NP programs set different clinical hour requirements, while others offer accelerated programs designed for experienced nurses. Some programs use cohort learning, which usually requires more time to complete. Others use individually paced learning, which allows advanced students to complete classwork faster.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Have a High School Diploma

Earning a high school diploma is the first step in the process; without a diploma, prospective NPs cannot earn a degree in nursing.

Earn a Degree in Nursing

NPs must have a degree in nursing before pursuing nurse practitioner schooling. Nurse practitioner programs require a solid background in nursing, which applicants demonstrate through education and experience. Most online NP programs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but some accept associate degrees. The degree must be from an accredited institution. Graduates from NP programs are only eligible for licensing if they earn a degree from a program accredited by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners .

Become a Registered Nurse

Most nurse practitioner programs require several years of experience as a registered nurse before enrolling as an NP student. In order to become a registered nurse, candidates must meet educational requirements and demonstrate their experience. Nurses must complete a certain number of clinical hours to receive a state license; the exact requirements vary by state. RNs must also pass an exam known as the NCLEX. The exam tests a nurses’ ability to provide safe and effective care, promote healthy behaviors, and practice infection control procedures. Nurses must also understand pharmacological therapies.

Earn a Master's Degree

Registered nurses who meet the educational and experience requirements can enroll in a nurse practitioner master’s program to become an NP. RNs can also earn a doctor of nursing practice instead of a master’s degree. At this stage, students can choose a speciality, such as family nurse practitioner. Online programs meet the same requirements as in-person degrees, and graduates from online NP programs must complete the same licensing requirements. Prospective nurse practitioner programs should hold accreditation from the AANP .

Take the National Certification Test

After completing a graduate NP degree, nurse practitioners must take the National Certification Test, offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board . All states recognize the certification, as do most private insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration. This certification meets the requirements for licensure in most states. The AANPCB offers certifications as a family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse, and emergency nurse practitioner. Each requires candidates to pass an examination. The FNP examination tests clinical knowledge for pediatric, adolescent, adult, and elderly patients, as well as prenatal care. The certification exams contain 150 multiple-choice questions. The computer-based testing format, which is offered through testing centers across the country, allows candidates to take the test in any 120-day window. AANPCB limits candidates to two testing attempts in each calendar year, and candidates who fail the test must complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education in their areas of weakness. NPs register online to take the examination, or they may submit a paper application. The exam costs $240 for AANP members and $315 for non-members.

Maintain and Renew Certification

After earning AANPCB certification, NPs must maintain and renew their certification every five years. The renewal process ensures that NPs possess current information and knowledge in their field. To renew, NPs must demonstrate at least 1,000 clinical practice hours in an NP role and 100 contact hours of advanced continuing education during the five-year period when the certification remains valid, or by retaking the examination and earning a passing score.

What Can I Do With an Online Nurse Practitioner Master's?

Certified nurse practitioners provide patient-centered healthcare, including primary care. Much of their work involves conducting health assessments, performing diagnostic testing, and devising treatment plans for patients of all ages. NPs practice in a variety of settings and earn above-average wages in their field, with many earning over $100,000 a year, according to the BLS .

NPs may specialize in several areas, such as family nurse practitioner or emergency nurse practitioner. They work in multiple healthcare settings, including private practice, health maintenance organizations, hospitals, health departments, and birthing centers. NPs also provide care to underserved populations in rural areas as well as inner-city settings.

Entry-level NPs earn an average salary of $90,000 a year. By mid to late career, many nurse practitioners earn over $100,000. NP salaries vary by employer, with hospital and military NPs averaging around $100,000 a year. However, regardless of the professional setting, nurse practitioners command some of the highest salaries in their field. The tables below show nurse practitioner salaries by experience and employer. Nursing.org provides even more information on this subject.

Nurse Practitioner Salary by Experience

Experience Salary
Entry-Level (0-5 years) $90,000
Mid-Career (5-10 years) $97,000
Experienced (10-20 years) $101,000
Late Career (20+ years) $105,000

Nurse Practitioner Salary by Hospital Setting