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How Non-Nurses Can Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Discover how you can pursue a growing career

Nurse Practitioners (NP) are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks nurse practitioners as the 2nd highest job category in terms of projected growth rate from 2019-2029. Combined with a 2019 median salary of $109,820 per year, becoming a nurse practitioner can seem like a great career for non-nurses looking for career growth and high earning potential.*

However, it’s not easy to become a nurse practitioner. It is not a job you can reasonably pursue with no formal education or nursing experience. You’ll need extensive professional and academic experience to qualify for jobs and succeed in the role.

For non-nurses starting from scratch, there are many schooling options you may consider when you choose your educational pathway to a career as a nurse practitioner.

Let’s first address some of the most common questions from non-nurses considering pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner.

Frequently Asked Questions

It can take roughly 3-5 years to go from non-nurse to NP through our program options but it depends on what education you’ve already earned and how quickly you want to progress.

No. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

This depends on the state in which you practice. Qualifying for NP school is not the same as qualifying for NP jobs. You may not need to be a Registered Nurse (RN) to qualify for an NP degree program, but some employers may require a minimum amount of RN experience from NP job applicants.

Nurse practitioners have an expanded scope of practice compared to registered nurses. In addition to RN duties, nurse practitioners may also write prescriptions, order lab tests, diagnose illnesses, and more (although specifics vary by state). NPs have greater autonomy in delivering patient care, and for that reason, the education requirement is higher. 

Learn more about the main differences between RN vs. NP.

No. Registered nurses holding an associate degree who enroll in an accelerated RN to MSN (Nurse Practitioner concentration/track) program may skip earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) on their way to earning their MSN.

Those who want to become an NP but only have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree may be eligible to enroll in our online Direct Entry MSN program, which makes it possible to earn a master’s degree in nursing in as few as 20 months without earning a BSN on the way.

What degree do I need to become an NP?

You will need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) before you can become a nurse practitioner—or any other type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

This can be a daunting prospect if you have yet to earn an undergraduate degree. However, an advanced degree is required for a reason. Practicing and excelling as a nurse practitioner demands advanced education and meaningful professional experience. There is no fast track to reaching one of the highest degrees in the nursing profession!

Going from Non-Nurse to Nurse Practitioner

Can you go from non-nurse directly to nurse practitioner?

Direct entry MSN programs are designed for prospective students who hold a bachelor’s degree holders in a non-nursing field.

While these programs can definitely help you earn the graduate-level education you need to prepare for a career as an NP, they aren’t right for everyone. Here’s what you need to know about direct entry programs:

  • Direct entry MSN programs typically require a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Students who do not currently hold a bachelor’s degree may not qualify for the direct entry program of their choosing.
  • Most direct entry programs are full-time. Non-nursing students who want to continue to work while going to school part-time may find difficulty finding a part-time direct entry program near them. Some schools may recommend you do not work over the course of the program.
  • Their accelerated pace can be very demanding. Not everyone learns at the same speed. With so much to learn in so little time, the pace of study can become overwhelming. Sometimes the shortest path isn’t always the best path! You may find it’s worth taking the time to get the most out of your education.
  • Options for MSN specialization might come later. There are many different concentrations you can pursue at the master’s level, including many types of nurse practitioner. But there isn’t always a concentration option when you’re starting at the beginning in a direct entry program. For instance, our MSN direct entry program is a generalist program preparing you to become a master’s-prepared RN. You will need to return to school after your direct entry MSN program for a post master’s certificate in the NP track you desire, which could take an additional 18-24 months.
  • You don’t always earn an undergraduate degree along the way. The purpose of a direct entry MSN program is to earn your MSN as quickly as possible – and depending on the program, you don’t always earn a BSN despite completing all undergraduate competencies. You will want to find out from your employer if they would like you to have a BSN or if they will accept a direct entry program resulting in an MSN.
  • Your career path may evolve. There are a wide variety of career opportunities in nursing with different educational requirements. Choosing a master-level specialty can be tough before ever taking a nursing class! You may find another calling as an RN.

So, what are my other options?

There are many potential pathways current non-nurses can pursue to become a nurse practitioner.

It can take around 2-5 years to become an RN and begin building the foundation to advance to NP in the future.

We offer a wide variety of options for students new to nursing who are ready to take big steps down a new career path—and many online nurse practitioner programs to help you choose your unique educational pathway.



Once you’ve earned an undergraduate nursing degree, you can potentially begin working towards an online master’s degree or post master's certificate in an NP specialty, including:

Your nursing career IS possible with Herzing

Working as a nurse practitioner may suddenly feel very far off in the future.

However, the path connecting you from where you are now to practicing as an NP is filled with all sorts of possibilities. With every educational step, you’ll discover new pathways towards becoming the type of nurse you really want to be, including a nurse practitioner. Our goal is to help you find your way and reach your highest career goals.

The most important step is your first!

Learn more about our many NP degree pathways

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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