Path to Becoming an NP for High School Students

Mapping out a path to becoming a nurse practitioner can be confusing.  A profession popular with individuals looking for a career change, many different educational options are available to prospective NP’s.  But what if you know early on that you want to become a nurse practitioner?

Recently I have received a lot of e-mails from high school students wondering what steps they need to take to become NP’s.  It’s easy to see why they aren’t quite sure what next steps to take after graduation.  With so many different types of nurse practitioner programs out there, it’s difficult to sort through them, especially for those who are still unfamiliar with the medical field.  So, If you are a high school student, here is the most practical path to becoming a nurse practitioner:

  1. Graduate High School…With Style– Finishing high school is the obvious first step to becoming an NP.  Don’t just graduate however, put in a little effort.  Striving for excellence, getting good grades, taking AP classes and becoming involved in extracurricular activities will set a good foundation for your education and help you get into college.  Taking a few courses in science will also help in your future nursing education.  Don’t shy away from the tough stuff, the harder you work in school now the easier it will be later.
  2. Apply to an Undergraduate Nursing (BSN) Program– In your junior year, begin looking at colleges.  The most efficient path to becoming a nurse practitioner is to major in nursing.  So, make a list of colleges offering Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) programs that you think you might want to attend.  Decide if you want to go to school in-state or out-of-state.  Consider the cost of college.  Does it matter how expensive it will be to get your degree?  Are there any schools that offer scholarships to nursing students?  Think about the school environment where you would best fit in.  Do you want a small, private school or a large, public university?  As you hone your criteria, make a list of four to six schools you think are a good fit for your needs.  Check application deadlines and begin working on your applications months before they are due, submitting them on time.
  3. Complete Your Undergraduate Nursing Program– College is awesome!  But, don’t  let fun times distract you from your goals.  Yes, make friends, go to parties, take a road trip for spring break, but study hard.  When you graduate, you will be a nurse.  It’s important that you focus and learn as much as you can so you are comfortable working as a nurse when you graduate.
  4. Work One to Two Years…Maybe– Many aspiring NP’s don’t continue their education right after becoming nurses.  They take one or two years to get some experience working as a nurse.  In fact, some nurse practitioner programs require that students have nursing experience before applying.  Other nurse practitioner programs do not require work experience.  If you don’t want to take time out of school to work before becoming an NP you will be a bit more limited in where you can apply.
  5. Apply to a Nurse Practitioner Program– Finally!  You are ready to become a nurse practitioner.  There are many options for your NP education at this point and you don’t need to decide which you will choose right now.  You may attend an NP program part-time, full-time, online or on campus.  You can also elect to specialize in a certain area such as pediatrics or acute care.  Wait until you are ready to apply to an NP program to make these decisions.
  6. Complete Your Nurse Practitioner Program-In your NP program you will learn all about diagnosing and treating patients, prescribing medications and much more.  When you graduate, you will have finally become a nurse practitioner.

If you’re in high school and you already know that you want to become a nurse practitioner, I applaud your foresight and enthusiasm.  You have made an excellent career choice and early enough that you can become an NP in the most efficient manner.

Still have questions about the path to becoming an NP from high school?  Comment below to get advice from readers. 

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