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How do I Become an ARNP?

By Ray Hawk
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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The path to becoming an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) varies from state to state within the US and varies in other countries as well. First on the list of steps to become an ARNP is to become a registered nurse (RN), which typically takes about two to three years. Beyond that, a minimum of a year of professional clinical nursing practice is usually required. The typical educational path is two to three years of additional schooling to obtain a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree (BSN) and, after that, several more years of study to obtain a master's of science in nursing (MSN). The total time commitment in school to become an ARNP can be as little as six years and up to eight or more if it takes longer to obtain the BSN degree.

Nurse practitioners (NP) are also known as advanced registered nurses (ARN), and advanced registered nurse practitioners. The terms are interchangeable. Once completing the formal schooling requirements and obtaining some clinical experience, RNs are required to be certified in a nursing specialty by a qualifying national organization. Examples of these include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) in the US and the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) in Australia.

RNs must complete a nursing program leading to a specialization and obtain a master's degree. All are required to pass a national certification exam, which is usually written. The certification license for the ARNP is then good for a period of three years, after which it must be renewed through obtaining continuing education credits. Areas of specialty once one has become an ARNP are quite broad in general, and include such categories as family practice, pediatrics, gerontology, midwifery, mental health and so on. Certain states within the US narrow the certification down to a finer level than just ARNP, such as a certified registered nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist.

Advanced registered nurse practitioners often serve as primary care providers for patients. They are responsible for meeting a majority of patient healthcare needs, as well as diagnosing a wide range of health conditions, as does a physician. They also provide preventative care and some acute care. Veteran ARNPs with two to five years or more of experience are in high demand.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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