How do I get Nurse Practitioner Certification?

Nurse practitioner certification is usually the last step before people assume jobs as nurse practitioners (NPs), but there’s a little confusion on this matter. Most people who have earned at least a master’s degree to qualify them to work as a nurse practitioner may need two forms of certification. One of these is national certification, and the other is state licensing, which is also sometimes called state certification.

There are different requirements for obtaining state licensing. These might only be that the nurse register, prove they have completed a state certified program, have an RN (though not always), and prove they’ve received certification from a national certification agency. The best way to find out what requirements are needed at the state level is to speak with the state nursing board, and get their lists of necessary steps in order to legally practice.

Either before or after receiving state licensing, people must also get nurse practitioner certification, and they have a number of choices of agencies that offer testing in this area. Which agencies people choose to test with may somewhat depend on whether they have been trained in an additional specialty. It’s important to investigate each testing agency to determine which one will provide nurse practitioner certification in the various specialty practices.

In the US, these agencies offer testing and nurse practitioner certification:

  • The National Certificate Corporation.
  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
  • The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Those in other countries should check with boards of nursing to determine which agencies offer certification and whether licensing and certification are required. This last may vary depending on country.

Where people test may also be in part decided by when tests are offered. Some tests with certain agencies are available in most areas on a pretty frequent basis, and many of the tests are now taken online from a test site, with a computer. Computer tests can be terrific because they are often able to give results right away, although people may need to wait longer for formal written announcement of nurse practitioner certification.

An important thing to note is that certification agencies impose requirements on people taking their tests. This is changing and beginning in 2015, some certifying agencies will not certify nurses practitioners unless they have a PhD. Prior to 2015, the only requirement to become a nurse practitioner was to successfully complete a master’s degree in the field, but a shift in theoretical orientation has led to greater demand for more study prior to obtaining nurse practitioner certification.


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