Education and Training
Advanced practice providers are healthcare providers in the following professions:
To qualify for acceptance into a nurse practitioner (NP) program, applicants must first complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). This degree takes four years to complete and contains general education, nursing courses and specialty practicums. There are also options of BSN to MSN programs.
BSN graduate students must successfully pass the NCLEX exam to practice as a licensed registered nurse (RN).
In preparation for obtaining a NP degree, it is highly recommended for RNs to first gain clinical experience in a nursing specialty.
A graduate nursing degree is required to become an NP. NPs must complete at a minimum a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) through an accredited program. An NP program must meet criteria of accrediting agencies, certification organizations and board of nursing requirements.
The MSN education encompasses earning 45 credits hours for the following core competencies:
- Clinical/direct care
- Leadership and collaborative practice
- Improving quality and developing practice
- Developing self and others
Students must also complete 500-1500 hours of clinical training.
DNP programs include coursework in areas such as evidence-based treatment, population-level health, and use of information technology to inform practice.
Graduate programs may be offered online. However, clinical preceptorships must still be completed.
There are five nurse practitioner certification boards in the United States, each of which award certifications across different population-foci.
NP graduates initially may obtain a general certification and then return for more specialized certification. For example, a primary care certified NP may enroll in a post-master’s track to obtain acute care certification.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses who complete an accredited clinical nurse specialist masters or doctoral degree program and pass the ANCC certification exam for CNS or other nationally recognized certification board. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers 10 specialty credentialing certifications including home health, pediatrics and adult health. Learn more.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Applicants must have a minimum of one year of experience as a critical care nurse. Students complete a graduate program that is approved by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. Programs take from two to three-and-a-half years to complete. This profession is transitioning from master’s level to doctoral level. The master’s will no longer be an option for students who enter programs in 2022; all entering students will need to graduate with doctoral degrees. Learn more.
Entry into a physician assistant (PA) program requires completion of uniform prerequisite undergraduate bachelor’s degree course work, focusing on behavioral and basic health sciences. Applicants with prior healthcare experience are preferred and many schools require shadowing experience as an entry level requirement. There are over 250 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States, graduating approximately 9,000 PAs each year. A PA program is generally 27 months in duration, culminating in a master’s degree, completing over 1,200 didactic hours in the first year and logging over 2,000 supervised clinical hours in the second year. PAs are certified by the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) after successful completion of a national board exam, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Physician assistants maintain certification by submitting continuing medical education hours (100 hours every two years) and by passing a board recertification exam every 10 years. PAs are generalist-trained, found in all specialties and subspecialties, are board-certified and have prescriptive authority. Learn more.
Certified anesthesiology assistants (CAAs) are required to hold a master’s-level degree from one of 12 CAAHEP-accredited training programs. Entry into these programs requires a bachelor's degree with certain premedical prerequisites, and completion of either the MCAT or the GRE. These CAA programs are typically 24-28 months in length and offer an average of 600 hours of classroom/laboratory education and 2,600 hours of clinical anesthesia education. Initial certification is awarded to a CAA who has successfully completed the Certifying Examination for Anesthesiologist Assistants administered by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) in collaboration with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The ongoing process of recertification requires that CAAs submit documentation to the NCCAA every two years showing that they have completed 40 hours of continuing medical education (CME). In addition, every six years they must pass the Examination for Continued Demonstration of Qualifications (CDQ). Learn more about CAAs.