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From RN to NP: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

You’ve been an RN for a few years, but you’re ready for a new challenge. Or maybe you’ve graduated from a RN program recently and want a leadership role in healthcare. In both scenarios, becoming a nurse practitioner could ignite your passion for nursing and lead to a lucrative career. However, navigating the requirements for this next career milestone can be tricky. To clear any confusion, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a nurse practitioner.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) provide primary and specialty healthcare under the guidance of a doctor or independently. Unlike a RN, they can order tests, prescribe medications, and diagnose conditions. Along with nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives, NPs are classified as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

NPs also receive higher pay on average than their RN counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nurse practitioner makes $125,900 a year on average. The demand for NPs is also growing much faster than average, with a 37% projected job growth rate between now and 2032.

Nurse Practitioner Specialities

Like being an RN, there are different specialties to consider when becoming a NP. Unlike being an RN, NP education programs are usually geared toward one specific specialty, instead of nursing as a whole. Popular NP specialties include:

  • Family practice

  • Mental health and psychiatry

  • Oncology

  • OB/GYN

  • Acute care

  • Pediatric care

While it is possible to know which specialty you want right after your RN program, experience in the nursing field may provide the insight to choose a better NP specialty.

Requirements to Become an NP in North Carolina

The requirements to become an NP can differ from state to state. In North Carolina, the main requirement is to complete a master’s degree. According to the North Carolina Board of Nursing, it’s also possible to become a licensed NP if you complete a higher degree, such as a doctorate, so long as the program focuses on nursing.

To be licensed, a NP must also have certification from one of the following boards:

  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)

  • National Certification Corporation of the Obstetric Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC)

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation (AACN)

There is also an application fee for initial licensure. To keep a license, a nurse must maintain one of the five certifications above, complete continuing education units, and renew within 90 days of the license expiration date.

NP Education

When looking at how to become a nurse practitioner, the most important step is choosing the right program. The program someone chooses should be nationally accredited and provide certification from one of the five certificating bodies above, should a nurse wish to practice in North Carolina.

As we’ve discussed, NP programs are more specialized than RN programs. When you applied to RN schools, most programs covered the same curriculum. For your NP, you need to pay attention to the specialty a program covers, such as family practice or mental health.

If you’re confused about what type of NP program is right for you, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners provides a guide on different NP types.

Best NP Programs in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are many high-quality NP programs to consider. To jumpstart your search, here are five of the top-ranked programs and what specialties they offer:

Applying to NP Jobs

Already have your NP license? Or maybe you want to explore what job opportunities are out there before you apply for programs. No matter which is the case for you, our featured jobs page gives an overview of NP jobs that are hiring right now. Explore featured NP and nursing jobs.


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