Nurse Practitioner Certification Requirements for Advancement (2024)

The nurse practitioner (NP) role is an advanced position that offers nurses the opportunity to take on additional responsibility and gain more professional autonomy. In fact, nurse practitioner is the No. 2 profession on the U.S. News and World Report’s 100 Best Jobs of 2023 list, which is based on demand, compensation, advancement opportunities, and other factors.

Nurse Practitioner Certification Requirements for Advancement (1)

work independently or in collaboration with physicians to perform many of the same tasks that medical doctors perform. And, as the nation’s healthcare needs increase, so does the demand for the services NPs offer. A staggering 112,700 new NP positions will be added nationwide between 2021 and 2031, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects, representing 46% job growth. That far outpaces the 5% growth the BLS projects for all occupations during that period.

Registered nurses need a graduate-level degree in nursing and a license to practice as NPs, and while requirements vary by state, certification usually is a prerequisite to gaining a license. Nurse practitioner certifications focus on treating specific conditions and populations, allowing nurses to choose their preferred specialization as they pursue new roles and advance their nursing careers.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner Certification?

The potential advantages of pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner are clear, and earning a certification holds its own benefits.

For graduates of advanced nursing programs that prepare their students for NP careers, obtaining a national certification typically is the next step toward becoming a licensed nurse practitioner. A variety of certifications are available, each signifying expertise in caring for a certain patient population or treating a specific medical concern.

5 Benefits of Nurse Practitioner Certifications

The reasons nurses seek NP certifications vary according to the type of certification. In general, however, the benefits of obtaining an NP certification include:

1. Taking the First Step Toward Licensing

Each state requires NPs to be licensed to practice. In most cases, national certification is among the requirements for obtaining that license.

2. Exhibiting a High Level of Expertise

Successfully meeting certification requirements shows a high level of expertise in advanced nursing care. Candidates for certification generally must complete education and training and then pass an exam that measures knowledge in a specific NP specialty.

3. Improving Credibility Among Employers

For employers seeking nurse practitioners, a certification can indicate that a job candidate has the knowledge and skill to provide high-quality care. This outstanding care can lead to improved outcomes for a medical provider’s patients.

4. Showing a Commitment to Advanced Education

Obtaining an NP certification — and recertification — requires a commitment of time, money, and effort. Earning a certification shows a nursing professional’s dedication to enhancing their knowledge and improving their skills.

5. Gaining Access to Opportunities for Career Advancement

Obtaining an NP certification can open doors to new opportunities for nurses. The certification can be a key step toward achieving their first NP position, or it can help them shift or build on the focus of their current role.

Types of Nurse Practitioner Certifications

NPs can specialize in treating a certain population, such as families, or a specific condition, such as mental health issues. They can provide primary care, acute care, or both. Primary care focuses on disease prevention, wellness, and treatment for common illnesses. Acute care is short-term treatment for a severe injury or illness.

Each certification shows expertise in a different NP specialty area. Master’s or doctoral nursing programs typically provide tracks that allow students to focus their studies on a certain specialization.

NP-Specific Certifications

Nurse practitioner certifications include those targeted specifically to NPs as well as those related to first aid practices. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) provides a list of NP certifications and the organizations that provide them.

For those seeking new certifications, the following are the focus areas of those targeted to nurse practitioners:

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP) — Broad spectrum of services for families and individuals across the life span
  • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) — Primary care for adults from adolescence through older adulthood
  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) — Acute care for adults from adolescence through older adulthood
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) — Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions in patients of all ages
  • Primary care pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP-PC) — Primary care for young people from birth to early adulthood
  • Acute care pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP-AC) — Acute care for young people from birth to early adulthood
  • Emergency nurse practitioner (ENP) — Treatment for patients of all ages in emergency departments (EDs) or urgent care settings
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) — Treatment for infants at increased health risk due to a variety of medical conditions
  • Women’s health care nurse practitioner (WHNP) — Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of women’s healthcare needs throughout their lives

First Aid Certifications

In addition to credentials related to their area of practice, nurse practitioners may need certification in first aid procedures for certain roles. The American Red Cross provides first aid certifications, including tracks for healthcare professionals. Examples of first aid certifications include:

Courses can last weeks or months. Training options for certification include in-person training only or a blend of online and in-person training. After successfully exhibiting the skills and knowledge required and becoming certified, the designation is valid for two years. Abbreviated courses are available for renewals.

Additionally, while it doesn’t provide what it considers to be certifications, the American Heart Association (AHA) provides first aid training for professionals in healthcare. Successfully completing each course indicates proficiency in the targeted skill.

The AHA offers classroom-based training as well as blended options that allow for online training as well as in-person experiences. AHA completion cards require renewal through additional training every two years.

National Certifying Bodies for Nurse Practitioners

National nurse practitioner certifications typically require a master’s or doctoral nursing degree — and nurses generally must hold a registered nurse (RN) license to complete these advanced programs. The typical certification also requires an exam and periodic renewal.

NP Certification Requirements by Organization

Five national organizations offer the most common nurse practitioner certifications. Although there is some overlap in the credentials they provide, each organization offers certification in its own set of practice areas.

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, for example, offers certifications for nurse practitioners specializing in family care, adult-gerontology primary care, and emergency care. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board’s NP certifications include those for pediatric primary care and pediatric acute care.

NP certification organizations and their requirements include:

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) certification process features an exam with 150 multiple-choice questions. To qualify, applicants must have completed master’s or doctoral programs in the certification area of focus.

Applicants may attempt the certification exam twice in a calendar year, with retests requiring additional practice experience or continuing education (CE).

The certification requires renewal every five years, which entails meeting practice and CE requirements or testing.

American Nurses Credentialing Center

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certification Program, for graduates of eligible advanced nursing degree programs, includes a test with 150 to 175 scored items. If the applicant doesn’t receive a passing score, they may retake the test up to three times in a calendar year.

After five years, the NP must apply for renewal, which requires a combination of CE and other options such as practice hours or academic courses.

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corp. offers adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner certification (ACNPC-AG) for NPs with advanced nursing degrees focused on acute care. This credential requires passing an exam of 150 scored items. Applicants may attempt the test up to four times in a calendar year.

This certification must be renewed every five years, which entails meeting requirements such as practice hours and CE.

National Certification Corp.

For certification through the National Certification Corp. (NCC), applicants must have received a master’s or doctoral degree in their designated practice area within the past eight years. The certification exam includes 175 questions.

NCC-certified NPs must renew their certification every three years, which entails meeting CE requirements.

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) requires applicants for certification to hold an advanced nursing degree in their area of pediatric care. Certification requires passing a 175-question exam, which applicants may take three times in a 12-month period.

The organization requires an annual recertification, along with CE and pediatric pharmacology hours every seven years.

State Licensing for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners generally must hold state-issued licenses, and each state establishes its own licensing requirements. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offers a resource for locating licensing requirements for each state.

Despite the differences in requirements by state, some standard qualifications for NP licensing apply regardless of location. Common requirements for state NP licenses include:

  • Obtaining an RN license, which generally requires graduating from an approved undergraduate nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Completing a graduate-level nursing program, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or PhD in nursing
  • Passing a national certification exam from a certifying organization

Although they currently differ by state, NP licensing requirements would become uniform under a proposal from the NCSBN that advocates a consensus model for requirements — including certification — that licensed advanced nursing professionals like NPs must meet.

The NCSBN proposal also calls for setting national guidelines for practice authority and autonomy for nurse practitioners and other advanced nursing professionals.

Nurse practitioners are in high demand across the country, which means nursing professionals have many opportunities to advance in their field. Obtaining an NP certification is an important step in becoming an NP, and an excellent way for current nurse practitioners to change or broaden their practice focus.

Learning about nurse practitioner certifications — and the organizations that provide them — can help nursing professionals prepare to pursue the career growth opportunities the credentials offer.

Nurse Practitioner Certification Requirements for Advancement (2024)


How many questions do you need to get right to pass AANP? ›

How many questions can you miss on the AANP exam and pass? AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam consists of 150 questions. Scoring works on a scale of 200 to 800 points with a minimum passing score of 500. Your score is neither a number or a percent correct score.

What makes you an advanced nurse practitioner? ›

What is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP)? Advanced Nursing Practitioners (ANP) are nurses who have undertaken a master's level in clinical practice. ANPs have authority in patient diagnosis and are trusted to independently assess, diagnose, manage and care for patients with complex clinical issues.

What are the chances for advancement in nursing? ›

A staff nurse with experience and excellent performance who shows this leadership ability may be promoted to positions of shift supervisor or unit manager and eventually to a head nurse position. Nurses with a BSN are more likely to be considered for management positions such as nurse supervisor or nurse administrator.

How many questions is the nurse practitioner certification exam? ›

The exam allows 3.5 hours to answer 175 questions (150 scored plus 25 pretest questions that are not scored). For exam prep resources, scroll down to view Study Aids. If you do not pass a certification exam, learn about retesting.

How many questions do you need to get right to pass the ANCC FNP exam? ›

To pass the ANCC examination, an examinee must achieve a scale score of 350 or higher. Prior to conversion of an examinee's score to this scale, the examinee's raw score on the examination is determined, which is simply the number of test items that the examinee answered correctly (e.g., 105 out of 150).

What is average score on AANP exam? ›

Thirty-three graduates who recently took the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Exam had a 100 percent pass rate and scored above the national average. The W's graduates' overall average score was 629, compared to the national average of 580.

What are the 4 pillars of advanced practice? ›

The four pillars of advanced practice are clinical practice, leadership and management, education, and research.

What is the highest level of nurse practitioner? ›

A DNP is the highest level of education certification available to nurses, and its curriculum centers on various healthcare research methods, data analysis, and evidence-based nursing practice—making it ideal for NPs who want to hold leadership or senior-level positions, educate other nurses, perform advanced patient ...

What is the difference between nurse practitioner and advanced nurse practitioner? ›

Nurse practitioners who work at a level below an ANP (ie at senior practitioner level on the Career Framework) are usually termed nurse practitioners and have a more limited scope of practice. In this article, an ANP is defined as a nurse practitioner practising at an 'advanced practice' level.

What is the highest paying advanced nursing role? ›

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) earn a nationwide average of $202,470 per year according to the BLS; this makes CRNAs the highest-paying type nursing job by a significant margin.

What is hardest field of nursing to get into? ›

Here are just a few of the specialties our readers mentioned — along with a little insight into what makes these nursing jobs so difficult.
  • Oncology. There's no surprise that this specialty is near the top of the list. ...
  • Hospice. ...
  • Medical-Surgical. ...
  • Geriatric Care. ...
  • Emergency Room. ...
  • Psychiatry. ...
  • Correctional Nursing.

What is the most advanced type of nurse? ›

What is the highest level of nursing? The highest level of nursing education is the doctoral level. Positions that require doctoral nursing degrees include certain types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), as well as leadership positions such as chief nursing officer or director of nursing.

How many times can you fail NP boards? ›

What happens if I fail the exam? ANCC: If you fail the ANCC FNP exam you will have the ability to retake the test after 60 days of the last testing date; however, you cannot take the exam more than three times in any 12 month period.

What are the 2 NP certifications? ›

There are currently two recognized certifying boards for NPs: The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Which NP test is easier? ›

The AANP is rumored to be the easier of the two exams, specifically for those seeking their FNP certification since it has a 5% higher pass rate than that of the ANCC FNP exam. Using the pass rate as a basis for difficulty then you can reasonably say that the AANP exam is easier than the ANCC.

Can I take AANP if I fail ANCC? ›

If you fail the AANP exam, can you take the ANCC exam (and vice versa)?* The AANP and the ANCC are completely separate organizations and they do not communicate about an individual's exam status. * You may take and retake either exam as long as you meet the board's eligibility requirements for testing and retesting.

What percentage is passing on NP boards? ›

– The pass rate for the FNP Certification exam is 81.6%. – The pass rate for the A-GNP Certification exam is 75.7%. – The pass rate for the ENP Certification exam is 88%.

What is the pass rate for AANP vs ANCC? ›

The pass rates are not very different; for 2021, the AANP pass rate was 84% (for FNP), and the pass rate for the ANCC was 87% (for FNP). The cost is similar; as of this writing, the AANP test is $315, and the ANCC test is $395, and both organizations offer a discount to their members.

What is a scaled score of 500? ›

A scaled score of 200 means 0 correct, while a scaled score of 499 is just below the passing point. So a score of 500 represents the exact number of correct answers required to pass the exam without knowing the passing point.

What is the highest score on the Aanpcb exam? ›

Total raw scores are converted to a scaled score ranging from 200 to 800 points using statistical procedures equivalent for all administrations of the examination. A minimum passing scaled score of 500 must be obtained to pass the examination.

Is the AANP exam difficult? ›

The AANP exam is a relatively tough exam with a FNP pass rate of 84%. After several years of study, to have approximately 19% of test takers fail is a fairly high hurdle. Taking AANP specific practice questions is the single best method of preparing for the exam.

What are the 6 C's of nursing? ›

The 6 Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, competence - are a central part of 'Compassion in Practice', which was first established by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, in December 2017.

Can advanced nurse practitioners prescribe? ›

Can advanced nurse practitioners prescribe medication? All fully qualified advanced nurse practitioners can prescribe medication for any condition within their competence. If they can't prescribe medication, then they are usually trainee advanced nurse practitioners.

What does ANP mean in nursing? ›

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2005) defines Advanced Nurse Practitioners as: Highly experienced and educated members of the care team, who are able to diagnose and treat your. healthcare needs or refer you to an appropriate specialist if needed.

Which NP specialty is the hardest? ›

Critical Care Nurse Practitioner

Possibly one of the most difficult nurse practitioner specialties, a critical care nurse practitioner has to learn to deal with life and death situations daily due to treating the most acutely ill or traumatized patients.

What is the lowest paid nurse practitioner? ›

How Much Does A Nurse Practitioner Make Per Year? The average annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner is $118,040. The bottom 10% of average annual NP salaries is $79,470. The top 10% is $163,350 per year.

Who is higher in rank NP or PA? ›

Is NP higher than PA? Neither profession ranks "higher" than the other. Both NPs and PAs work in the healthcare field but with different qualifications, educational backgrounds, and responsibilities. They also work in different specialties.

Is an APRN as good as an MD? ›

APRNs can diagnose and treat disease just like an MD or a PA for the most part. At minimum, an APRN has a registered nurse license (RN), hands-on clinical experience, and a master's degree in the nursing field. APRNs are also supervised by a licensed MD.

Are nurse practitioners nurses with advanced qualifications? ›

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who obtain graduate education at the masters, post-master's or doctoral level and obtain national board certification. Academic NP programs follow established educational standards, which ensure the attainment of the APRN, role and population core competencies.

How do you become an advanced clinical practitioner? ›

Entry requirements
  1. Be a currently practicing registered healthcare practitioner.
  2. Possess a Degree in a Health Related Discipline. ...
  3. Be employed as a trainee advanced clinical practitioner or be in a role in which the programme outcomes can be achieved (please contact the programme leader for advice)

How to make $100,000 a year as a nurse? ›

  1. Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) ...
  2. Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) ...
  3. Become a Nurse Midwife. ...
  4. Advance in Nurse Leadership. ...
  5. Begin travel nursing assignment. ...
  6. Change Nursing specialties. ...
  7. Relocate to a higher paying state. ...
  8. Make sacrifices.

Which nurse practitioner specialty is in highest demand? ›

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and labor statistics, the most in-demand specialties for NP include:
  • Family (70.3%)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care (8.9%)
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health (6.5%).
Apr 10, 2023

What unit of nursing makes the most money? ›

What is the highest-paid nurse? Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists! Earning $195,610 annually, CRNAs earn significantly more than any other type of nurse or nursing specialty.

Which field of nursing has the highest burnout rate? ›

Critical care nurses suffer the highest rates of burnout.

This is mainly due to the nature of the job, as critical care nurses work specialize in the emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU). As such, their work environment is constantly fast-paced, meticulous, and demanding.

What is the most stressful nurse specialty? ›

The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.

What is the most qualified nurse? ›

The highest level of clinical nursing is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), which is a nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist.

What type of nurse is most wanted? ›

Top 10 Most Wanted Nursing Specialties in 2023
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) ...
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) ...
  • Neonatal nurse. ...
  • Geriatric nurse. ...
  • Critical care nurse. ...
  • Oncology nurse. ...
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner. ...
  • Pediatric nurse.
May 17, 2023

What is the fastest nurse to become? ›

The fastest way to become an RN is through an RN diploma program, which can be completed in as little as a year. While completing this program does not lead to a degree, it does make the individual eligible to take the NCLEX and earn their RN license.

How hard is the NP board exam? ›

Is the FNP exam hard? Becoming a Certified Nurse Practitioner isn't easy, and yes, both the AANP and ANCC certification exams are challenging — very challenging. They will take a great deal of analytical thought, clinical judgement, and preparation.

Which is better AANP or ANCC? ›

The AANP exam is a multiple choice exam. The ANCC exam contains several question types: multiple choice, multiple response, drop and drag, and hot spot. If you are not comfortable with question formats that are not multiple choice, AANP testing may be a good choice for you.

How long should you wait to take NP boards? ›

For most nurse practitioner graduates, the best time to take the certification exam is within one or two months of graduation. This ensures you can apply for your NP license, which you will need to start working, as well as keeps the knowledge you need for the exam fresh.

Can a NP have more than one specialty? ›

NPs can obtain multiple degrees across multiple specialties, or they may choose to just focus on one area. Depending on your geographic region, knowledge about specialty NPs may be fairly uncommon, or a specialty certification may be the only way to get a job in a particular area.

Do all NPs have DNP? ›

No, a DNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a nurse practitioner (NP) is the title bestowed on a nurse who has at least an MSN degree and has completed the nurse practitioner clinical and didactic requirements.

Can I take both AANP and ANCC? ›

This is not recommended, but some people do it. The only reason why you would need to take both exams is if you are considering a specialty that's not certified by one of them. For example, if you are an FNP that's certified with the AANP, and you want to become a PMHNP, you would have to be certified by the ANCC.

How long should I study for my NP exam? ›

Allow a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks of planned study after you complete the review course to maximize your likelihood of success on this important high-stakes exam.

Is NP or PA school more competitive? ›

While premeds don't need 1,000 hours of direct patient experience, they do need to put in several hundreds of hours across multiple extracurriculars including clinical experience, research, volunteering, leadership, and others. NP school is the least competitive of the three and it has the loosest requirements.

Which NP has the most flexibility? ›

The FNP is the most flexible specialty as you are trained to see children and adults. If you ultimately decide you would like to work in the hospital rather than a family clinic, you can still do so.

Do you find out if you pass AANP right away? ›

AANP: Don't stress out, exam results are available immediately upon completion of the exam in a pass/fail format. Examinees who fail the exam (it won't be you) will receive an official letter articulating strengths and weaknesses pertaining to knowledge areas covered on the test.

What is a good score on APEA predictor exam? ›

A score of 67% or greater indicates adequate knowledge in the core courses. Exam results identify any knowledge deficits. These results assist students in creating an appropriate study plan for improving knowledge deficits. The APEA 3P exam is based on the testing domains and knowledge areas listed below.

Which is harder ANCC or AANP? ›

The AANP is rumored to be the easier of the two exams, specifically for those seeking their FNP certification since it has a 5% higher pass rate than that of the ANCC FNP exam. Using the pass rate as a basis for difficulty then you can reasonably say that the AANP exam is easier than the ANCC.

What is the highest score possible on the AANP FNP exam? ›

The AANP-FNP exam is scored on a range of 200 to 800. The AANP certification passing score is 500.

What is a passing score on the Npte out of 200? ›

The NPTE is graded on a scale ranging from 200 to 800 with 600 as the cutoff for a passing score. While you'll see 250 questions on this 5-hour exam, only 200 questions are scored and 50 questions are considered 'experimental'.

What does a scaled score of 70 mean? ›

Scaled scores indicate the same level of performance, regardless of which form a candidate has received. For NCCT certification exams, the converted raw passing score is 70 on a scale of 0 to 100. This is NOT a percentage. Why use a scaled score?

What is the lowest scaled score? ›

Scaled Scores have a score range of 0 – 19 points, with an average score of 10 points.

How hard is the nurse practitioner exam? ›

Are Nurse Practitioner Exams Difficult? Yes. Both of the examinations to become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (NP) are very challenging.

What is the difference between FNP C and FNP BC? ›

Perhaps most importantly, the certification exams have different scopes. The FNP-C is meant for FNPs who plan to go into clinical practice. The FNP-BC is aimed at nurse practitioners who want to make an impact on the profession as a teacher or policymaker (although they are still licensed to practice).

Are Leik questions harder than AANP? ›

The LEIK questions were easier than the exam but provided a good foundation and understanding of how to answer the exam questions. I split the questions up and a few days before the exam would do 150 questions from the book per day to emulate the exam conditions.

What is the pass rate for APEA FNP? ›

Attendees at APEA live courses have a greater than 99% pass rate on their first attempt on the FNP and AGPCNP certification exams.

How many questions is the APEA predictor exam? ›

150 questions. 3-hour time limit.


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