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 chosing 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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Comments

Hi Monica,

I think attending an online NP program is just fine!  In an online program, you will still have clinical hours to complete giving you face to face time with an instructor.  I would make sure to put in a lot of effort in your clinical time and maintain a good relationship with your clinical preceptor so they can provide you with an excellent recommendation.  This should make up for any hesitancy an employer has about an online program.  Your clinical preceptor observes you in a role similar to the role you will have as an NP and will be able to offer an employer an accurate evaluation of your skills eliminating any potential doubt.

Erin Tolbert

How does it look to attend an online NP program? For ex: South University in Savannah Georgia?

Monica

Thank you for your insight! You certainly helped. Btw your blog makes me want to be an np even more.

Jessica

Hi Jessica-

All great questions.  ER employers will value your experience as a nurse practitioner over your experience as a RN.  RN experience will certainly help but you could always go straight through school to get your FNP then work a year or so in urgent care as a nurse practitioner before applying for ER positions.  I had to work as a nurse practitioner in urgent care for two years before I was able to land a position in the ER.  There is certainly no hard rule as to if you will be hired without any prior NP experience.  We currently have 2 NP's working in my ER that don't have any prior NP (or RN) experience.  I would say that my workplace is more the exception to this rule and that NP experience will likely be necessary.

I hope this helps!  You can read about my experience in this post.

Erin Tolbert

Hello! I'm a senior in high school and I want to be exactly what you are, an emergency nurse practitioner but i don't know how to go about it. Do you think it's a good plan to finish school, work as an rn in the er for a year then go to np school? Would an er hire me as a fnp with my year experience? Thank you!

Jessica