Become a Nurse Practitioner Without a BSN

Nurse practitioners are primary and specialty care providers who sometimes work independently or in collaboration with other health professionals. They often work in a specific health care area, like pediatric, psychiatric and geriatric health.

You don’t need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a nursing background to become a nurse practitioner. However, you will need an advanced or graduate degree to become licensed as a nurse practitioner. There are registered nurse (RN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs as well as direct-entry MSN programs that don’t require a BSN.

If you have a desire to work in health care within a meaningful role, you might be interested in a career as a nurse practitioner. The following information outlines how to pursue a nurse practitioner career without a BSN.

Can I Become a Nurse Practitioner Without Nursing Experience?

Nursing experience is required to become a nurse practitioner, but there are MSN options that do not require a BSN or prior nursing experience. Direct-entry MSN programs, sometimes referred to as accelerated nursing programs, are nursing programs for those without prior nursing experience or education. They enable career changers who have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in another subject to pursue a career in nursing. These programs typically take around two to four years to complete and include general prerequisite nursing courses. 

During an MSN program, you’ll gain hundreds of hours of clinical experience. Direct-entry MSN programs specifically provide coursework for you to first become a RN and earn licensure and then pursue coursework to help fulfill your career as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

You’ll likely be required to earn clinical experience post-graduation to earn your certification as a nurse practitioner and subsequently pursue state licensure. Be sure to check with your state’s nursing licensure requirements before applying to MSN programs.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Without a BSN

For those who don’t have a BSN but who want to become a nurse practitioner, there are typically two pathways to achieve this role. Nurse practitioner requirements will vary by state, but these are some common steps to becoming a nurse practitioner without a BSN.

1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

RNs may have an associate degree or may have completed approved nursing education to achieve licensure as a registered nurse. Direct-entry MSN programs will typically prepare you to pursue RN licensure before becoming a nurse practitioner if you are a career changer.

2. Earn Your MSN Degree 

RN to MSN programs offer nurse practitioner specializations and take around two to three years to complete. These bridge programs may include upper-level nursing bachelor’s courses before the RN begins MSN graduate courses. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in another subject may apply for an on-campus or online MSN program, like a direct-entry MSN degree.

3. Gain Clinical Experience 

As a part of your MSN degree, whether that’s earning your RN to MSN or direct-entry MSN, you will pursue hours of clinical experience. Post-graduate hours are integral to licensure and certification as a nurse practitioner.

4. Apply for a Nurse Practitioner Certificate 

In addition to having your MSN degree, you may be required to take a national certification exam in the specialty you want to work in.

5. Apply for Nurse Practitioner Licensure 

This is the final step to getting licensed and beginning your nurse practitioner career. There are typically fees required to get licensed. 

Research the nurse practitioner requirements for the state you want to work in so you can stay on track as you work toward licensure. Once you have your nurse practitioner license, it’s important to meet renewal requirements to stay active.

Information on this page was retrieved in August 2020.