Nurse Practitioner

Is this career right for you?

  • Do you enjoy science and the study of the human body?
  • Do you enjoy researching information and solving problems?
  • Are you comfortable with making independent decisions?
  • Do you have the communication and interpersonal skills to advise and educate patients?
  • Do you work well with others, and are you a team player?


There are four types of Nurse Practitioners; all have graduate degrees (MSN or DNP) and certification as a particular type of Nurse Practitioner. Each has a specialty.

  • Certified Registered Nurse-Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
  • Advanced Practice Nurse (ANP – includes many different sub-types)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CSN – primarily hospital practice)

Dual Degrees

The most common type of dual degree for students attending Nurse Practitioner programs is an NP/MPH, for those who want training in Public Health, in addition to direct patient care. These NPs generally opt for careers in community health or epidemiology, where the focus is to affect healthcare outcomes for an entire population, in addition to clinically treating individuals.

Not all programs offer dual degrees. You can expect dual degree programs to take some extra time to complete, but less time than completing each degree separately.

Length of Professional Training

Please note that there is no direct line from CU Boulder to the University of Colorado School of Nursing. You will need to apply to nursing schools just as you would to any other type of separate program.

  • NP: There are two pathways to a master’s level degree in nursing. The first one listed below is most common for CU Boulder students:

Complete a BSN, and then apply to an NP program: After completing a BSN degree, you may apply to a separate master’s program. The master’s program will take an additional two to three years to complete.

Complete a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, and then apply directly to NP programs: These programs are highly selective. After completing a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, students may apply directly to a “direct entry” NP program, which will take an additional three years to complete. They will pass the Registered Nurse Exam during the first year, and proceed to finish the masters in the next two. You must have chosen your nursing specialty in order to be admitted to this type of program.

  • DNP: This degree requires one additional year of education after the masters degree, and new NP students are being encouraged to complete it along with their clinical training. It is also common to return after a few years of practice to complete this additional degree.
  • PhD in Nursing: After completing the BSN and MSN, usually in nursing, you may obtain the PhD in Nursing, a research degree which prepares you for academic teaching. It may take three to five years to complete.

For more information on the various pathways to entering a career in nursing, please refer to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.

Academic Preparation


  • If you intend to complete a BSN, and then apply to an NP program, please refer to the Nursing Details page to download a document listing common prerequisites for BSN programs.
  • If you intend to apply directly to NP programs after completing a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, be aware that the prerequisite coursework required by NP programs varies widely. Please check with each individual school for their requirements.


Nursing schools do not care which major you choose, but they do seek applicants who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and have done well in their coursework. The best major for you to choose is the one YOU will find most interesting and challenging.

Application Service

The Centralized Application Service for Nursing Programs: NursingCAS

Admissions Test

  • If you intend to complete a BSN before applying to an NP program, you will not be required to take a standardized entrance exam for the BSN program.
  • If you intend to apply directly to NP programs after completing a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you will be required to take the Graduate Record Exam.

The GRE is comprised of the following sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Writing Sample

Timing of Application

Varies by program; check school websites for more information.

School Selection

For a listing of accredited nursing programs, sorted by pathway type, please refer to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.

Letters of Recommendation

Be prepared to provide up to 5 letters from professors and clinicians who know you and your abilities well.

Personal Attributes and Experiences

In addition to focusing on strong academic preparation, pre-nursing students should also engage in activities that develop and demonstrate the personal attributes that are valued in healthcare professionals. See our Preparing for a Health Career section to learn more.