Become a nurse practitioner without a BSN

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse who has completed advanced training that expands the type of care they can provide. In fact, NPs share many of the same responsibilities as doctors. NPs may choose to work with a particular group, or within a particular sub-specialty area. They may work independently or in collaboration with other health professionals to achieve patient outcomes.

While earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a popular educational route for aspiring nurse practitioners, you don’t need a BSN to start your career as an NP. What you will need is an advanced or graduate degree. 

This guide will explain one potential pathway to becoming an NP, which includes the option of completing a direct-entry MSN program that does not require a BSN. 

Can I become a nurse practitioner without nursing experience?

Nursing experience is required to become a nurse practitioner, but there are a few different ways you can obtain that experience. 

One option is through direct-entry MSN programs (also referred to as accelerated nursing programs), which are designed for individuals without prior nursing experience or education. They provide general prerequisite nursing courses for students to first become an RN and earn licensure before moving on to the skills and knowledge required to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These programs typically take around two to four years to complete, during which students can gain hundreds of hours of clinical experience. If you have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in another subject, consider enrolling in a direct-entry MSN program.

Depending on the state where you practice, you may also be required to earn clinical experience post-graduation to earn NP certification. This allows you to 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

Interested in becoming a nurse practitioner without a BSN? While requirements vary by state, here is one potential pathway to become an NP without a BSN.

1.  Earn your MSN degree

For non-nursing bachelor’s degree-holders, the first step toward becoming a nurse practitioner is to earn a master’s degree in nursing. If you have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in a different subject, you may want to apply for an on-campus or online MSN program, such as a direct-entry MSN degree. If you already have a nursing background and an RN license, you can enroll in an RN to MSN program, which allows you to specialize in a particular area of nursing. These bridge programs take around two to three years to complete, which might incorporate upper-level undergraduate nursing courses. 

2. Become a registered nurse (RN)

At some point, you will need to obtain your RN certification. This is an optional first step — you can earn your associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing, or complete a nursing certification program through an approved institution before becoming licensed. However, many direct-entry MSN programs also prepare students for RN licensure, which can be especially helpful for career changers.

3. Gain clinical experience

Post-graduate clinical hours are integral to licensure and certification as a nurse practitioner. Whether you’re earning your RN to MSN or direct-entry MSN degree, you will be able to log relevant experience toward becoming an NP.

4. Apply for a nurse practitioner certificate

You can further specialize your knowledge and prove your expertise by taking a national certification exam. Some certifications you may want to consider include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult Nurse Practitioner Certification (ANP-BC), Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNPC), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certification (NNP-BC), and many others.

5. Apply for nurse practitioner licensure

As you work toward the final step of receiving your NP license, be sure to research the nurse practitioner requirements for the state you plan to practice in. Once you have your license, it’s also important to meet renewal requirements to keep your license active.

Last updated: January 2024