How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: The Osmosis Ultimate Guide, Part One

Osmosis Team
Published on Nov 20, 2023. Updated on Nov 21, 2023.

From finding the right nurse practitioner program to helpful job-seeking tips and stats, get all of the advice and guidance you'll ever need to succeed as an NP from experienced clinicians and nurse practitioners in the field.

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How to Get Started On Your Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

According to US News World Report, Nurse Practitioners are rated at #1 for best healthcare jobs and #2 for the top 100 jobs overall in the country. It’s no wonder, as NPs contribute directly to improved patient outcomes and play a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare! A career as an NP can be truly transformative since they can draw from their nursing experiences and strong clinical background as they expand their role to include diagnosing, treating, and managing a variety of medical conditions in in-patient and outpatient settings. The nurse practitioner role allows for greater autonomy and decision-making authority in the clinical realm and often opens the door to leadership roles, educational positions, and entrepreneurial opportunities such as establishing private practices. 

This guide will outline the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner, suggestions for choosing your path, and the journey to successfully completing a program. We’ll explore the education requirements, program durations, salary ranges**, work settings, and the licensing journey while sharing resources for those considering a career as a nurse practitioner or NP. 

Before we start, let's clarify some important terms: 

  • Advanced Practice Nurse (APN): An Advanced Practice Nurse is a registered nurse who has acquired advanced education and clinical training beyond basic nursing education. APNs have specialized knowledge and skills that allow them to take on expanded roles in healthcare. This category includes Nurse Practitioners (NP), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA).

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP): AANPCP is a certification board that offers certification examinations for Nurse Practitioners. The AANPCP is one of the certifying bodies that NPs may choose for obtaining national certification.

  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN): AACN is a professional organization that focuses on critical care nursing. It provides resources, education, and certification for nurses working in critical care settings. The organization is known for its certification program, including the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification.

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC): ANCC is a credentialing organization that certifies nurses in various specialties, including nurse practitioners. ANCC certifications are widely recognized and include certifications for NPs in multiple specialties, such as Adult-Gerontology, Family, and Psychiatric-Mental Health.

  • National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC): NCC is a certification board that provides certifications for nurses specializing in obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing. It includes certifications for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) and Women's Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNPs).

  • National Council Licensure Examination© (NCLEX): The NCLEX is a standardized, adaptive exam that nursing candidates must pass to obtain licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN) in the United States and Canada. It’s designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for the safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry level. The exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) develops and administers the exam. 

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): A nurse practitioner is an APN who has completed additional education and training beyond the BSN level to provide comprehensive healthcare services. NPs can diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications, and often specialize in specific patient populations or areas of healthcare.

  • Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA)CNEA is the accreditation division of the National League for Nursing (NLN). The NLN CNEA accredits practical/vocational, diploma (RN), associate, bachelor, master, clinical doctorate, post-graduate certificate, and distance learning programs.

  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)PNCB is a certification board that focuses on the certification of pediatric nurses. It offers certification exams for PNPs and other pediatric nursing specialties.

  • Population Foci: Population foci in the context of nursing and advanced practice refers to specific patient populations or areas of healthcare that nurses or nurse practitioners specialize in. Examples of population foci include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP).

  • The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN): AACN is a major accreditation for RN bachelor, master, clinical doctorate, post-graduate certificates, fellowships, and distance learning programs.

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Taking the First Steps: Which Program Is Right for You?

Types of Nurse Practitioner Programs

You can take several paths to become a nurse practitioner. Choosing between a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Post Master’s Certificate (PMC), a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or a Direct Entry program will largely depend on your current qualifications, career goals, and the level of nursing practice, as well as time and cost. 

Here's a table with a breakdown of the key differences between the programs:

Program Type


Typical Length 

Average Cost


For BSN-prepared RNs.

-Typically requires 4,000 hours of RN clinical practice

-Focus on advanced clinical practice and patient care in a specific population foci 

2-3 years 

Varies; typically $30,000-$60,000


For MSN-prepared nurses seeking further specialization.

-Non-NPs will need additional coursework

-NPs adding population foci will need coursework related to population specialty 

18 months to 2 years 

Varies; typically $20,000-$40,000






3-4 years 

Varies: typically $40,000-$80,000

Direct Entry MSN

For students with a bachelor's degree in another field.

-Undergraduate nursing and graduate nursing combined

-Take NCLEX first, then on to NP courses

-Many are DNP programs

4-5 years

Varies: typically $50,000 to $100,0

Which Program Style Is Best for Me: Online or In-Person?

Selecting the right nurse practitioner program is a pivotal step in your career, with options spanning online, in-person, or blended formats. Online programs offer flexibility for those balancing other commitments, while in-person courses foster direct engagement and hands-on experience. Meanwhile, many institutions now offer blended programs, harmonizing the benefits of both, with much of the coursework taking place virtually while clinical, lab, and simulation learning occur in person. 

Prospective students must weigh these formats against their learning preferences, logistical constraints, and career goals to make an informed decision. Next, we will review some advantages and disadvantages of online and in-person programs. Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision between online and in-person.

Online Program Benefits

Flexibility: Online programs offer flexibility regarding when and where you study, which can be beneficial if you have other commitments like work or family.

Access: You can access coursework and lectures from anywhere with an internet connection, allowing you to learn without being tied to a specific location.

Self-Paced Learning: Online programs often allow for more self-paced learning, accommodating those who prefer to progress through material at their own speed.

Diverse Perspectives: Online programs may attract students from various locations, providing a more diverse learning environment.

Online Program Drawbacks

Self-Discipline: Online learning requires a high level of self-discipline. If you thrive in a structured environment, ensure you can maintain motivation and keep up with coursework if you choose an online program.

Technology Requirements: Ensure you have access to a reliable computer and internet connection, as well as comfort and proficiency with using online learning platforms.

In-person Program Benefits

Face-to-Face Interaction: On-ground programs offer direct interaction with professors and peers, facilitating immediate clarification of doubts and discussions.

Networking Opportunities: In-person programs provide networking opportunities with classmates, faculty, and professionals in the field, which can be valuable for your career.

Clinical Training: Some programs may have established partnerships with local healthcare facilities, ensuring robust hands-on clinical training.

Structured Schedule: If you prefer a structured routine, on-ground programs often have a set class schedule and clear timelines for completing coursework.

In-person Program Drawbacks

Location Constraints: In-person programs may require you to be physically present, which can be challenging if you have geographic constraints. Selecting an in-person program limits your options to those that are near your residence.

Time Commitment: The structured nature of in-person programs may require a more rigid time commitment, which can be challenging for those with busy schedules.

Limited Flexibility: If you need flexibility due to work or family commitments, an in-person program may be less accommodating than an online option.

Considerations for All Program Types 

Regardless of whether it’s in-person or online, you’ll want to be sure that the program you select has the following key elements:

  • Accreditation: Ensure that the program, whether online or in-person, is accredited by the appropriate accrediting bodies.*

  • Clinical Placement: Consider how clinical placements are arranged and whether the program provides support in securing suitable clinical sites.

  • Cost: Compare the costs of online and in-person programs, including tuition, fees, and potential relocation or travel expenses.

  • Learning Style: Reflect on your preferred learning style. If you thrive in a self-directed environment, online learning may be suitable. If you prefer in-person interactions, an in-person program might be better.

  • Career Goals: Consider your long-term career goals and how the program's format aligns with those goals.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your individual circumstances, preferences, and the specific details of the programs you’re considering.

Finding Your Learning Preferences

Discovering your learning preferences is a personal journey, and there are various resources and assessments that can help you identify how you learn best. This is important because when the teaching modalities used match your learning preferences, you’re more likely to obtain and retain knowledge. With so much information coming at you at once, you’ll want to hone in on your particular style or styles.

While some individuals thrive with traditional textual content, others benefit from auditory, visual, or hands-on experiences. Multimedia learning, particularly through videos, offers a dynamic approach that can cater to multiple senses, enhancing understanding. Recognizing that a combination of methods often works best for many, it's crucial to explore and integrate various learning strategies. Likewise, by understanding and leveraging your unique learning preference, you can maximize educational outcomes and navigate academic challenges more effectively.

Here are some resources you can explore to discover your learning preferences:

Remember that learning preferences are preferences rather than absolutes, so they can be fluid, and many learners find they do best using a combination of them. Exploring multiple resources and reflecting on your experiences can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how you learn best.

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Choosing a Population Focus/Foci 

Choosing a population focus for your nurse practitioner specialization is a significant decision that should align with your interests, career goals, and the specific patient population you’re passionate about serving. Let’s take a look at a list of specialties to consider:

Adult/Gero Acute Care Nurse Practitioners

These NPs specialize in providing care to adult and elderly patients in acute or critical settings, such as ICUs and hospitals. Having RN experience in ICUs, medical-surgical units, or telemetry is beneficial for this specialization. This focus is ideal for those passionate about managing acute conditions in fast-paced hospital settings and working closely with a medical team to stabilize patients.

Adult/Gero Primary Care Nurse Practitioners 

This specialty focuses on offering primary care to adults from late adolescence to late adulthood, including preventative care and chronic disease management. Prior RN experience in general medicine units, outpatient clinics, or geriatric settings can be invaluable. This track is suitable for those who value long-term patient relationships and holistic care for the adult and senior (geriatric) population.

Emergency Nurse Practitioners 

These NPs work in high-paced environments, such as emergency rooms, handling acute or life-threatening conditions. RNs with experience in ER or trauma units will find this background especially useful. This specialization is fitting for those who excel under pressure, want to be at the forefront of emergency care and handle a wide range of urgent cases.

Family Nurse Practitioners

The Family Nurse Practitioner specialization offers comprehensive healthcare to individuals of all ages and emphasizes holistic care through all life stages. RNs with experience in family medicine clinics, pediatrics, or community health will find it beneficial. This focus appeals to those interested in treating patients across different ages and fostering overall family health.

Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Practitioners 

These NPs are dedicated to caring for newborns, especially those who are premature or critically ill. Having RN experience in the NICU and with high-risk pregnancies is invaluable. This specialty is ideal for those dedicated to caring for vulnerable newborns and supporting their families during challenging times.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners 

This focus provides care to infants, children, and adolescents. RN experience in pediatric units, pediatric ICUs, or school nursing is particularly helpful. Choosing this specialty is ideal for individuals passionate about early health interventions and dedicated to child and adolescent well-being.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners

Geared toward mental healthcare these NPs can diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders. RNs with experience in psychiatric units or substance abuse centers are well-prepared for this role. This focus is essential for those keen on understanding mental health's complexities and making a profound difference in patients' lives.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners

This specialty centers on women's health issues, from reproductive health to menopause care. RNs with experience in OB/GYN units, labor and delivery, or reproductive health clinics will find this background advantageous. This focus is vital for those passionate about offering holistic care to women, encompassing both physical and mental well-being throughout their lives.

Considerations for Choosing a Population Focus/Foci

When selecting a focus/foci, there are a few key things to consider in addition to the above descriptions. Here are some considerations and steps to help you make an informed choice:

Reflect On Your Interests

Consider the patient populations or healthcare issues that genuinely interest and inspire you. Reflect on your experiences in nursing and identify the areas where you feel most engaged and fulfilled.

Assess your previous clinical experiences and consider the patient populations you enjoyed working with. What type of care did you find most meaningful? It can guide you toward a specialization that aligns with your strengths and experiences.

Consider the Demands of the Population

Different patient populations have unique healthcare needs and challenges. Consider whether you’re drawn to primary care for families, acute care for adults, mental health care, pediatric care, or specialized care for certain conditions.

Explore Specializations

Research the various specializations available, such as Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP (AGACNP), Psychiatric-Mental Health NP (PMHNP), Pediatric NP (PNP), and others. Each specialization has its own focus and scope of practice.

Assess the Job Market

Investigate the demand for NPs in different specializations in your region or where you plan to work. Some specialties may have a higher demand than others, influencing your career opportunities. 

Consider Your Long-Term Career Goals 

How do you envision your role as an NP? Do you see yourself working in primary care, acute care, or a specialized clinic? Your population focus should align with your career aspirations.

Talk to Nurse Practitioners in Different Specializations

Reach out to practicing NPs in various specializations to gain insights into their roles, experiences, and challenges. Hearing firsthand from professionals in the field can provide valuable perspectives.

Evaluate Educational Programs

Explore the curriculum and clinical opportunities offered by NP programs in different specializations. Some programs may have unique features or partnerships that align with specific population foci.

Consider Future Trends

Stay informed about healthcare trends and emerging needs in different patient populations. Consider how these trends might influence the demand for NPs in specific areas of practice.

Seek Guidance from Mentors

If you have mentors or advisors, seek their guidance in choosing a population focus. They may provide valuable insights based on their own experiences and observations.

Shadow a Nurse Practitioner

Shadowing an NP offers invaluable insights into the dynamic roles and responsibilities of these advanced healthcare professionals. By directly observing the daily operations and patient interactions, individuals gain a firsthand understanding of the clinical decision-making process, interdisciplinary collaboration, and patient-centered care that NPs provide. Overall, such exposure not only aids in confirming career choices but also equips future NPs with the practical knowledge and context they might not acquire from textbooks alone.

Remember that choosing a population focus is a personal decision; there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Take the time to explore your options, gather information, and make a decision that aligns with your passion for nursing and the type of impact you want to have on patient care.

Demand for Nurse Practitioners

It's important to note that while the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides overarching figures for nurse practitioners, the specifics vary based on specialization and other factors like region, demand, and experience level. The growth rate and salary ranges are generalized based on the broader "Nurse Practitioner" category. Specificities require a more granular look at individual datasets or resources, but overall, the field is anticipated to grow by 45% in the next decade.

Salary Ranges By Specialty

Adult/Gero Acute Care NP: $105,000 - $150,000

Adult/Gero Primary Care NP: $100,000 - $140,000

Emergency NP: $110,000 - $155,000

Family NP: $100,000 - $140,000

Pediatric NP: $100,000 - $140,000

Psychiatric Mental Health NP: $105,000 - $150,000

Women’s Health NP: $100,000 - $140,000

Prerequisites for Accredited Nurse Practitioner Programs

To become an NP, you must first become a registered nurse and pass the NCLEX. However, as mentioned previously, a few programs, such as direct entry programs, allow you to obtain your BSN, then take the NCLEX, and move into the NP program. 

Typically, an NP program takes three to five years to complete, depending on your education and experience at the time of admission. The general requirements for most NP programs are:

  • Bachelor's degree in Nursing

  • Registered Nursing licensure

  • GPA of 3.0 or higher

  • 2 years/4,000 hours of practice as an RN

Successfully Completing Your NP Program

Navigating Nursing Course Requirements

While every school and program is different, there are typically some standard courses that nearly every nurse practitioner student must take. The following course descriptions offer a foundational understanding of each course's content. However, specific details, topics covered, and learning objectives will vary based on the institution or program offering the course.

PathophysiologyThis course delves into the study of altered physiological processes leading to disease and illness. Students explore the cellular and organ system responses to various pathogenic mechanisms. Emphasis is placed on understanding the foundational pathophysiological changes, their clinical manifestations, and the implications for nursing practice.

Advanced Physical AssessmentIn this comprehensive course, students develop advanced skills in history-taking and physical examination techniques. Emphasis is placed on differentiating between normal and abnormal findings, recognizing subtle clinical cues, and integrating diagnostic reasoning into clinical practice. Clinical rotations may be required to ensure competency in hands-on assessment skills.

Advanced PharmacologyThis course provides an in-depth study of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and the therapeutic use of drugs. Students learn about drug classifications, mechanisms of action, and their role in disease management. The course emphasizes safe prescribing practices, potential drug interactions, and considerations for special populations.

Health PromotionFocusing on the proactive approach to healthcare, this course examines strategies for promoting health and preventing illness across populations. Students learn about health determinants, behavior change theories, and evidence-based interventions to address individual and community health needs.

Graduate Nursing ResearchThis course is designed to equip students with the skills to critically evaluate and apply nursing research in clinical practice. Topics include research design, methodologies, and evidence-based practice principles. A prerequisite of graduate-level statistics is required for course enrollment.

Population HealthThis course provides an overview of the principles and practices of population health within the broader healthcare system. Emphasis is placed on health determinants, health disparities, population-based interventions, and the role of the advanced practice nurse in improving health outcomes at the community and systemic levels.

Health PolicyIn this course, students explore the intricacies of health policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Topics include policy advocacy, healthcare financing, ethical considerations, and the impact of policies on clinical practice and patient outcomes. The course also emphasizes the role of advanced practice nurses in shaping health policy and driving systemic change.

Population-specific Didactic and Clinical Courses: With your prerequisites in order, it’s time to move on to your population-focused courses. Population-specific courses vary depending on your chosen population foci. There’s a lecture portion of the class and a co-requisite clinical course. Clinical courses usually have an online component where you upload your clinical paperwork and a system for documenting your patient encounters. Clinical courses will likely be in a setting that matches the population and will align with your lectures. Clinical requirements may vary. However, the minimum requirements are at least 500 hours per population foci for MSN programs and 1,000 hours for DNP programs.

The Nurse Practitioner Program Experience

Navigating the NP Program Learning Process

As you venture into the world of Nurse Practitioner (NP) programs, the learning process can seem daunting. The first phase of the NP program focuses on theoretical knowledge and preparing for clinical experience. You’ll want to actively engage in discussions, take diligent notes, and make connections between classroom content and real-world scenarios. Here's a guide to help you understand and navigate your journey.

Online Component

Online components in NP programs require effective time management to balance work and family life demands. To thrive in a virtual learning environment, you’ll want to establish a structured study routine, set aside a quiet workspace, and minimize distractions. Active engagement in discussion forums is also crucial, enriching your learning experience and fostering a sense of community.

Success Tips

  • Establish a Routine: Designate specific hours for studying to create a consistent schedule.

  • Designate a Workspace: Choose a quiet, organized area dedicated to schoolwork.

  • Minimize Distractions: Use tools to block distracting websites during study times.

  • Engage Online: Participate in forums to enhance understanding and connect with classmates.

In-Person Component

The in-person experience in nurse practitioner programs is pivotal, providing a tangible, interactive platform for student growth. Direct engagement with faculty and peers in classrooms and clinical environments enriches learning through real-time feedback and collaborative discussions. Such immersive settings also facilitate hands-on practice, which is essential for honing clinical skills. These face-to-face encounters enable you to develop robust communication abilities and form mentoring relationships that can be instrumental throughout your career.

Success Tips

  • Active Participation: Contribute to classroom discussions to solidify your understanding.

  • Hands-on Practice: Take full advantage of lab and clinical sessions for skill development.

  • Networking: Forge strong connections with peers and faculty for future support and opportunities.

Course Papers

Course papers form a critical component of the curriculum, offering a platform for the in-depth exploration of complex clinical issues, applying evidence-based research, and developing sophisticated arguments. These assignments are a means to assess comprehension and serve as a vehicle for students to refine their writing and analytical skills, which is essential for their future professional practice. Crafting a well-argued paper requires a blend of organization, thorough research, and clear articulation of ideas.

Success Tips

  • Start Early: Begin the writing process well in advance to accommodate thorough research and multiple drafts.

  • Leverage Resources: Make use of your program’s writing center for guidance on structure, flow, and academic style.

  • Peer Review: Engage classmates in peer reviews to gain different perspectives and constructive feedback.

  • Iterative Revisions: Schedule time for revision, recognizing that great writing is rewriting.

  • Connect Ideas: Ensure your paper shows how theory informs practice and vice versa, displaying deep integration of knowledge.

Skills Day

Skills days are an integral part of NP training, dedicated to hands-on practice of clinical procedures to learn new skills or get a refresher. You’ll be under the supervision of experienced educators and practice various clinical tasks, including basic interventions like injections to more complex procedures such as chest tube placement, ensuring you’re well-prepared for real-world clinical settings.

Success Tip: Engage actively, ask questions, and repeat any skills you feel uncertain about. Practice makes perfect, so take advantage of these supervised sessions.


Simulations can be online or in-person. Simulations provide NP students with a controlled and safe environment to practice clinical scenarios using high-fidelity manikins or virtual platforms. These simulations replicate real-world situations, enabling you to hone their decision-making, diagnostic, and treatment skills without risking patient safety.

Success Tip: Approach simulations as real clinical scenarios. Reflect on your actions post-simulation and discuss any uncertainties with instructors to cement learning.

Standardized Patients 

Your program may use standardized patients (SP). SPs are individuals trained to consistently replicate specific clinical scenarios or health issues. NP students interact with these individuals as they would with actual patients, allowing for a realistic and consistent environment to practice history-taking, physical examination, and interpersonal communication. 

Success Tip: Treat SPs as real patients, maintaining professionalism and empathy. Afterward, seek feedback and reflect on areas of improvement.

Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

An OSCE is a comprehensive evaluation method where NP students rotate through a series of stations, each designed to assess specific clinical competencies. At each station, students may encounter SPs, manikins, or other clinical tasks. OSCEs provide a structured and standardized approach to evaluate students' clinical performance and readiness for practice. Some programs also use live OBGYN and male models to assist students in learning GYN/GU and prostate exams. 

Success Tip: Prepare by reviewing common scenarios and practicing skills. During the OSCE, stay calm, be methodical and open to feedback for continuous improvement.


Nurse Practitioner Clinicals

Clinical rotations provide hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced NPs or physicians. They're essential for bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. You can expect to be in clinical approximately 200 hours per term. Many programs offer assistance in finding sites or you may be required to find your own site and preceptor. In general, you’ll want to start this process as early as possible and at least six months ahead of the clinical experience. Here are a few tips for finding clinical sites and preceptors. 

Clinical Requirements

Your school may have specific requirements to attend the NP program and additional requirements for clinical rotations. In addition, the clinical site may have additional requirements that you must meet before starting rotations. It’s not uncommon for schools and clinical sites to require the following:

  • Background check

  • Child abuse clearance

  • Drug test

  • Vaccines: Hepatitis B, COVID, influenza 

  • TB testing

  • Clinical application 

Finding Clinical Sites

Some schools have affiliations with clinical sites, if not, an affiliation agreement will be needed between the school and the clinical site. If your school does not have clinical placement, you might have to find your own. Research local hospitals, clinics, or private practices to ensure your chosen site aligns with your population focus.

Success Tips

  • Start Early: Begin your search months in advance to secure desired clinical sites.

  • Leverage Personal Networks: Talk to colleagues, professors, and fellow students for connections or recommendations.

  • Clinical Placement Services: Use university-affiliated services or departments that assist with clinical placements.

  • Nurse Practitioner Organizations: Explore the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and local NP associations for listings or member-offered student placements.

  • Cold Calling or Email: Reach out directly to clinics, hospitals, or private practices, emphasizing your contributions.

  • Attend Networking Events: Use conferences, seminars, or workshops to meet potential preceptors and learn about available clinical sites.

  • Online Platforms: Consider websites like or ClinicalMatchMe.

  • State Boards of Nursing: Some maintain a list of approved clinical sites or can guide you to related resources.

  • Volunteer Opportunities: Volunteering can sometimes lead to a clinical placement, offering experience and networking opportunities.

  • Professional Social Networks: Platforms like LinkedIn can be invaluable. Join NP groups and participate actively.

  • Consider Rural or Underserved Areas: These areas might have unique opportunities and a high demand for healthcare providers.

  • Stay Organized and Persistent: Track applications, follow-ups, and feedback. Persistence often pays off.

Remember, while securing a clinical site may require effort and creativity, each placement opportunity propels you closer to your career goals.

Finding Preceptors

A good preceptor can make a significant difference in your clinical experience. Seek recommendations, network at professional events, or approach experienced NPs in your chosen field. Ensure clear communication about your goals and expectations. Use the list above for finding clinicals, as well as the tips below for finding preceptors.

  • Personal Connections: Tap into your network. Friends, colleagues, and family might know NPs who can precept or introduce you to potential preceptors.

  • Engage with Faculty: Your professors or program coordinators often have connections in the field and might know of NPs open to precepting.

  • Professional Organizations: Attend local NP association meetings or events. This not only provides networking opportunities but may lead directly to potential preceptors.

  • Online Forums and Communities: Platforms like are designed specifically for NP students and often have boards or forums where preceptor needs are discussed.

  • LinkedIn: Join NP-focused groups, participate in relevant discussions, and directly reach out to potential preceptors in a respectful manner.

  • Alumni Networks: Previous students from your program, now working as NPs, might be open to precepting or could provide leads.

  • Offer Incentives: While not always possible, some students have success by offering to assist with administrative tasks, research, or other non-clinical duties to lessen a potential preceptor's workload.

  • Be Clear About Your Commitment: When reaching out, be clear about your eagerness to learn, your commitment to the rotation, and how to make the experience valuable for both parties.

  • Stay Adaptable: Be flexible with your schedule and try to accommodate the preceptor's timing and requirements as much as possible.

  • Follow Up and Express Gratitude: After an initial contact, ensure you follow up. Once a preceptor agrees, ensure you regularly express gratitude and appreciation for their time and guidance.

Remember, securing a preceptor isn’t just about fulfilling a program requirement. It's about forging a meaningful relationship with an experienced professional who can provide invaluable insights and guidance on your path to becoming a seasoned NP.