How to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse

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Marquette MSN students studying on laptops

If you have a previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree and are considering a career shift into nursing, you probably have questions while figuring out which path you should take. Should you get a bachelor’s degree to become a nurse or a master’s degree to become a nurse leader or an advanced practice nurse (APRN)? Which degree will allow more opportunities, and which advanced practice nurse specialties are viable as a career goal? Here, we’ll uncover how to become an APRN and discuss some of the rewarding advanced practice nursing specialties you can go into after you earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

Research the Benefits of an Advanced Practice Nursing Degree

Before you decide between earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or MSN degree, you should research the types of careers you will be able to access with each. Once you begin looking into the different available educational options, you will find that an MSN degree can open your future up to a huge amount of opportunity and specialization, if that’s the path you choose to pursue. After graduating with your MSN you’ll be perfectly positioned to pursue post-degree certifications and advance your career in an advanced practice nursing specialty.

For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced practice nursing specialties including nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn a median pay of $117,670 per year with these positions poised to grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030. This represents a significant upgrade over nurses’ median pay and projected growth. These specialties, as well as those of clinical nurse leader, acute care nurse practitioner, nurse educator and more, are all important and valuable career trajectories you can access in nursing.

The rapid growth of advanced practice nursing is a symptom of a changing healthcare system, with increased numbers of patients and shortages of physicians requiring advanced practice nurses to bridge the gap and provide expert care to patients.

Additionally, an MSN degree can open even further options down the line for administrative and leadership positions. With so much to gain from becoming an advanced nurse practitioner or nurse leader, the choice could be straightforward for students who meet admission requirements.

Earn Your MSN on the Way to APRN Post-Master’s Certification

With so much to gain from earning an MSN, there has never been a better time to find the right school and enter a program. For traditional MSN programs, you will have to undergo years of prerequisites, courses and clinicals before earning your degree.

However, for Direct Entry MSN programs like the one offered through Marquette University, you can leverage your previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree into a career in nursing within 19-21 months. Now let’s explore the process of how to become an APRN through an MSN program.

1. Speak with Admissions

Before you can get any closer to achieving your degree, you will need to speak with an admissions adviser. During your initial conversation, you can discuss the program in greater detail, ask any questions you may have and respond to several initial interview questions like your academic background and what drew you to the idea of advanced practice nursing as a career.

They will be able to tell you whether you qualify for admission into the program, as well as how many prerequisite courses you will need to complete prior to enrollment. Once you have everything you need in order to enroll, the time has come to submit your application.

2. Submit Your Application

Once you are ready to enter Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program, you will need to begin the online application process via the Marquette Graduation School application portal. This action comes with a $50 application fee.

Next, you will need to gather and submit materials including your official academic transcripts, three letters of recommendation, an updated resume and a statement of purpose. You will soon hear back with an admissions decision.

3. Attend Our Second-Degree Direct Entry MSN Program

If you successfully enroll in the program, offered in Pleasant Prairie and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, congratulations! Now you will participate in a curriculum with online-based or campus-based coursework, in-person simulations labs and clinical rotations.

Ruben, a Marquette nursing student, participating in a simulation lab

Overall, your time in the program would take 19-21 months and consist of 75 credit hours, which includes extensive lab work and clinical practice at different leading local healthcare facilities. With drive, dedication and ability, you can earn your MSN degree and emerge ready to take on a position as a nursing leader.

4. Take the NCLEX-RN Exam

Before you can officially begin working as a nurse, you will need to register for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). This tests your critical thinking and nursing knowledge, and determines whether you attain licensure. Thanks to the time spent learning these concepts and studying for the NCLEX-RN format during the Marquette DE-MSN program, you can confidently take this exam and emerge ready to take on this vital career.

Gain Experience and Pursue Certifications

After you begin practicing as an entry-level nurse, you can start to gain the clinical experience you’ll need to take on a post-master’s certification in an advanced practice nursing specialty field. Once you are ready to take on the last step to becoming an APRN, you can find a certification program and begin to work toward your targeted field. Luckily, Marquette offers multiple post-master’s certificate options which can be used to access multiple advanced practice nurse specialties including:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Researcher

Once you become board certified in your chosen specialty area, usually completed part-time while working as an RN after graduation, you will officially be an advanced practice nurse within your chosen specialty area. As you move forward in your career, you can rest assured that you’re improving the quality of care experienced by patients each day and moving the field in the right direction.

Take the Next Step Toward Nursing Leadership

With the knowledge of how to become an APRN, you can enter the nursing field within 19-21 months with an MSN degree from Marquette University and begin working toward the next step in your career. Now is the time to take the first step toward your future.

Are you ready to take on an exciting, rewarding career by applying to nursing school? Contact our admissions team today to see how you can get started!