Is it Important to Attend a Prestigious Nurse Practitioner Program?

Prospective nurse practitioners often ask me if it matters if they attend a ‘brand-name’ or prestigious nurse practitioner program.  While there is no definite answer to this question, there are certainly a few things you should consider in choosing what level of esteem you will seek in a NP program.

What are the Advantages to Attending a Highly Regarded Nurse Practitioner Program?

The obvious advantage to attending a reputable NP program is that it looks good on your resume.  At the beginning of your career, your educational accomplishments will likely be weighted more highly in the eyes of employers as your time in school is the only NP experience you will have to offer.  However, if you plan to practice in the location where you attended your nurse practitioner program, the job market will be saturated with graduates holding degrees from the same program.  In this case, it won’t be much of an advantage over other job candidates, you will all present on a level playing field.  Once you get started with your career, your degree will not hold nearly as much weight.  Employers value experience much more highly than your educational path.

The other possible advantage to atending a renowned NP program is the level of education.  Common sense says that the better the school, the more prepared you will be as a nurse practitioner upon graduating.  While this may be partially true, the most important part of your nurse practitioner education will not take place in the classroom but rather with a physician, PA or NP supervising your clinical hours.  These individuals are most often not university employees and quality of these clinical preceptors varies widely even in prestigious schools.  Even if you attend a lesser known NP program you may still get an excellent clinical preceptor and be just as well prepared when you graduate.

If you think you want to eventually teach in a university or ultimately build your career in the academic realm, attending a more prestigious NP program will be an advantage.  In the academic sphere, names hold weight.

What are the Disadvantages to Attending a Prestigious Nurse Practitioner Program?

Cost, cost and cost.  Distinguished universities always charge more for their nurse practitioner education.  Your NP degree may be double or even triple the price if you choose to attend a well known nurse practitioner program.  You must decide if the potential advantages to a well-known name on your resume will outweigh the burden of paying off a hefty loan post graduation.

How Has a Well Known NP Program Affected My Career?

I attended a relatively well know nurse practitioner program (Vanderbilt University).  I choose to remain in Nashville, TN after I graduated therefore I don’t feel that my ‘prestigious’ degree holds much weight in employer’s decisions to hire me.  There are an overwhelming number of Vanderbilt NP graduates in my community so my degree does not make me stand out from other applicants.

When looking for jobs, I find that employers are much more interested in the type and length of my experience as a nurse practitioner rather than the university I attended.  I had a wonderful time at Vanderbilt and made lifelong friends, but when it comes to finding jobs, my level of experience and recommendations from former coworkers have been more influential in helping me find employment than the university named on my degree.


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