Advanced Practice Nurse Certification and Licensing

Advanced practice nurses hold two licenses. They are licensed first as registered nurses (RNs), then as advanced practice registered nurses (APNs or APRNs). In order to achieve RN licensing, a nurse must graduate from an accredited school of nursing. She then takes the NCLEX licensing exam at the RN level. Additional requirements may include a background check and professional fitness questionnaire.

Become an Advanced Practice Nurse

In order to become an APRN, a nurse must enroll in an approved program at the graduate level. The program includes a clinical practicum of approximately 500 to 1,000 hours. (Doctorate programs include more clinical practice hours, but they are designed to develop skills for research and advocacy as well as direct patient care.)

Many states have an additional licensing requirement: After completing her education, the prospective APRN must take a national certifying exam. There are multiple boards. The American Nurses Credentialing Center certifies nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists in a variety of specialties. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners certifies nurse practitioners in adult, gerontological, and family care while the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board credential pediatric specialists. There are more specialty boards; you’ll want to check your state licensing board to determine which ones they deem acceptable.

States may set experience requirements as well. Some states specify that a nurse must work in the field for a couple years before becoming licensed for advanced practice. Education doesn’t end with initial credentialing. Licenses must be renewed periodically, and continuing education is typically a part of the process.